Janus-Merritt Strategies was a lobbying firm founded in 1997 by conservative activist Grover Norquist and then-lawyer David Safavian, who later became better known as the chief of staff in the General Services Administration and for his conviction in the Abramoff-Reed Indian lobbying scandal.
The firm was founded as the Merritt Group, and later renamed Janus-Merritt Strategies (sometimes referred to as "Janus Merritt" or simply "Janus"). Janus (mythology) was the two-headed god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings, and endings.
From the start, the firm had a fiercely ideological tenor: "We represent clients who really do have an interest in a smaller federal government", Safavian said in a 1997 interview with Legal Times. "We're all very ideologically driven, and have a bias in favor of free markets." He went on: "We're not letting people who offer us money change our principles."
Over the next five years, the firm's clients included businesses like BP America, the U.S. division of British Petroleum. There were foreign companies like the Corporacion Venezolana de Cementos and Grupo Financiero Banorte. And there were gaming interests, including those of several Indian groups, such as the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Council (a client the firm shared with Jack Abramoff), and the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, the National Indian Gaming Association (Janus lobbied for the latter two on the same issue, amendments to the Interior Appropriations Act that were considered anti-Indian.)
Dissolution in 2001
Perhaps the most controversial client of the lobbying firm was the American Muslim Council and Abdurahman Alamoudi, a fierce supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah. Senate disclosure reports on file show that for years Janus-Merritt registered as a lobbyist for Alamoudi.
At a Senate confirmation hearing in April 2004, Safavian said that "To my knowledge, neither I nor Janus-Merritt did any work for Mr. Alamoudi." "I do not know why Mr. Alamoudi was erroneously listed in the client's lobby disclosure forms." More, "I do not believe Janus-Merritt received any funds from Mr. Alamoudi."
On December 17, 2001, eleven months after Safavian's departure, Janus resubmitted its disclosure forms. This time the name of Alamoudi had been replaced by the name of Dr. Jamal al Barzinji, who is also notable as a vice president of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT). Norquist has refused to release tax records of the firm for the period during which he and Safavian owned the company.
Safavian told the Senate that al Barzinji, not Alamoudi, was his client. "Al Barzinji," he said, "should have been listed as the client retaining the firm for work related to Malaysian political prisoner Anwar Ibrahim," referring to the deposed prime minister of Malaysia, who also was a co-founder of the IIIT. In fact, Barzinji had been listed as a contact, not a client, on all the disclosure forms.
On March 20, 2002, Barzinji's home was raided by a federal task force investigating terrorist finances. A federal affidavit identifies Barzinji as the ringleader of a group suspected of aiding terrorists.
At least one of the co-registrants with Alamoudi in his services on behalf of Norquist's Islamic Institute, Palestine-born Omar Nashashibi, went to work for Williams Mullen, serving as its director of government affairs.
- Jack Abramoff's House of Cards
- Seth Gitell, "Strange Bedfellows: Grover Norquist and Abdurahman Alamoudi", Boston Phoenix October 4–11, 2001