As news breaks that Moammar Kaddafi has been killed fighting defiantly to the end, I turn on CNN to see that the world is rejoicing, and there is dancing in the streets from the shores of Tripoli, to the halls of the West Wing, to Carla Bruni’s birthing room in Paris. (Mind you, I also turned on the Today Show for more details, and learned all about a fat waitress who got jilted on a tip.)
But if there’s one person left on earth shedding a tear for the so-called former dictator of Libya, it might be me. Not because I was such great pals with Kaddafi, or because I laughed at his off-color knock-knock jokes, or because I found his entourage of Swedish nurses so fiendishly attractive. No, rather it is a sad day in the offices of the Eisenstadt Group because we have lost one of our most lucrative public-relations clients. And by lucrative, let me just say that we had been billing Kaddafi in the high six figures since the uprising began last spring (remember this blogpost I ran a few months ago?). But as everyone on K Street knows all too well, just because one “sends” a bill, does not mean one necessarily gets “paid” the bill. (Just ask Kissinger and Associates about the great Ceausescu Accounting Scandal of ‘91 - still a case study at the Kennedy School’s Intro to International Influence class where I’ve guest lectured from time to time.)
The upside of working with international pariahs as clients is that they tend to have a lot of money and there isn’t much competition banging down their doors. Also, try as you might, if you still can’t get them any real tangible benefits (like placing an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, getting a Greta Van Susteren interview on Fox, or getting the CIA to stop sending drone attacks), you can generally be forgiven for trying to paddle upstream against the torrent of international zeitgeist. The down side though is that these despots tend to blame international sanctions and frozen bank accounts for their inability to pay their bills in a timely fashion. And as I found today, they get the ultimate excuse when they’re suddenly and personally made “unavailable” - as Kaddafi’s six-foot-one, blonde Latvian accountant told me today via Skype from Zurich.
For anyone who’s read my critically-acclaimed book, you’ll know that this isn’t the first time Marty Eisenstadt hasn’t gotten paid for services rendered (yes, McCain/Palin Victory Fund 2008, I’m talking to you!). But as a man of honor, I don’t whine or complain or wallow in self-pity about it. I simply pick myself up by my bootstraps, hire more unpaid interns, and start looking towards Embassy Row for the next client. Hmm, I hear the Syrian embassy on Wyoming Ave. is in need of an “image burnishment consultation” (as we call it in the trades). Oh, taxi!