February 10, 2012

Cruise Line Industry, Middle East Dictator, Have Relied On The Same DC Lobbying Firm For Public Relations

Following the Costa Concordia disaster near Italy, cruise line business practices have generated headlines from NPR to the New York Times and beyond. In addition to safety concerns, the wake of the Concordia shipwreck has stirred debate around a whole host of cruise line issues: from abusing workers to avoiding regulations while operating in international waters.

The renewed focus on the industry, and potential for better oversight, has cruise line companies scrambling. The National Journal reports that the Cruise Lines International Association, the lobbying group for cruise line companies, hired a seasoned political operative to help combat the bad press. A closer look at the cruise line lobbying force reveals a public relations firm operating from the background, swatting down negative media stories.

For years, the Cruise Line International Association has quieted negative stories using the DC-based firm Chlopak, Leonard, Schecter, and Associates (CLS). CLS helped the industry “counteract online criticisms of the industry’s safety, security, health and environmental practices” using Facebook and Twitter. It’s a media outreach strategy that CLS extends to many clients, including dictators. CLS was the firm chosen by former Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak to lobby Congress and the media for positive press. For several years, the Justice Department’s foreign lobbying registry shows that CLS helped the Mubarak regime spin Bloomberg, Newsweek, and other major media outlets.

While CLS couldn’t help stop the Arab Spring from toppling its client, perhaps they will be more successful in curbing reforms for cruise line corporations.