4 days before the legislative elections, the lobbying contracts revealed by Al Monitor MENA sparked a fire in an already tense Tunisian electoral atmosphere.
While the $1 Million Karoui contract stole the attention, that of Olfa Terras Rambourg, president of Aich Tounsi, was overlooked by the news.However, it’s veracity cannot be put into doubt. In a call on Friday night, 10 PM (GMT+1), Jeannine B. Scott picked up the phone and confirmed to Barr Al Aman that she and Olfa Terras Rambourg have directly exchanged on this regard, as was mentioned in the contract.
The candidate on the Aich Tounsi list on Bizerte had had her schedule arranged by America to Africa in order to appear in the right places to promote her image and consolidate her network. Compiling conferences and meetings, the contract states that the “philanthropist” would be introduced in important international forums such as the African Union Heads of State and Government in Niamey in July, as well as the AfDB, UN-ECA and other the heads of states and government officials of “countries with strong economic and governance performances” on the African continent, besides other introductions to business and civil society leaders in Europe and Latin American and the USA.
However, the agent says that she only knew her client was running for elections after the end of the “service delivery”. And despite recognizing the contract was extended till the end of October, the agent denied any conflict in the situation saying the candidate had no party.
There seems to be an assumption then that in the absence of a political party, Rambourg, which presented herself as a philanthropist based in France, was not having any political activity. In that case, why would her contract qualify for Registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Agency(FARA) if it was not of political character?
The American law requires the registration of all contracts in which “agents” would help a foreign principle “Engage in Political Activities” or “Provide Certain Public Relations or Politically Related Services”.
The contract mentions no lobbying will be done with American decision-makers. However, it clearly requires the delivery of service of introduction to influential figures in different places of the world.
Will the High Independent Authority of Elections (ISIE) consider these elements tonight in preliminary results decision?
Please find below the transcription of the phone call between Barr Al Aman and Jeannine B. Scott, director of “America to Africa” :
Link to the full contract:
Link to the recording:
-Hello. Is this madam Jeannine B Scott?
-Hello, I am Mohamed Haddad, a journalist based in Tunis. I would like to ask you some questions if you don’t mind.
-I have been reading the contract between your company and Mrs Olfa Terras Rambourg and the first question I wanted to ask is, did you know that she is a candidate for the parliamentary elections?
-Now I know, yeah. She wasn’t then.
-When did you know that?
-I guess she declared a few weeks back but we had already finished almost all what we were working on.
-But the contract’s registration was done on September 3rd.
-Yes, because I have asked for a legal opinion so they allowed me to file late, which was when we were already finishing what we were working up.
-In the 8th point, there is a question about the relationship of your client with political parties or government, saying “Is this foreign principal owned, controlled, directed, financed or subsidized by a foreign political party or government”. And your answer to all the questions was “no”. However, by the contract’s registration date, Olfa Rambourg was already a candidate and she was running at the head of a movement of lists contending for the parliamentary elections. Isn’t there any contradictions in there?
-No, because, the information apply to the time when she was here.
-But there is an extension in the end of the contract mentioning that the contract will be valid until the end of October.
-By the time we filled the document there was not a conflict.
When I do my supplemental filing, then I will have to make an adjustment. But not for that filing.
-Why was there any extension when the contract was contracted far before that date?
-Because there were one or two other things that I wanted to do, and I wanted to make sure that everything was covered.
-Which kind of things?
-I wanted her to have one other meeting that I was not able to get.
–When did that meeting take place?
-It did not take place.
-But you said that the extension was done to allow for another meeting that you did not manage to have in May/June.
-Exactly, the meeting that I expected to have during the earlier time frame, and I was not able to achieve it. So I extended to cover myself in case I was able to achieve it.
-And do you know that if you organize meetings or activities for her, or even if you only try, this plays a role in influencing the parliamentary elections that are supposed to take place on October 6th?
-It was supposed to be something achieved before she declared that she is going to be a candidate. And I was never able to get the meeting. so…
-Meanwhile, Mrs Rambourg and her colleagues did not seem to see a limit between the associative and political activities. Did she tell you about any separation or limit between both?
-Well, it was not a political party. It was a movement. So there is a separation, at the time when she was here.
-Yes it was not a political party but she was having political activities and running for elections.
She wasn’t running for elections then.
-And do you know about the political structure under which she is running for elections?
-Actually I don’t. I know the movement is called Aich Tounsi and don’t know if it magnified into another thing or not, or that it was doing a political party stuff.
-Mrs Rambourg totally recognizes that she is doing a political activity and that she is doing that with an association. So legally, it is not a political party, but genuinely, she was doing political activities and it is proved as she is a candidate. So there is a blurry zone here. Did she tell you about this confusion before?
-No. I don’t think so, for me, there was no confusion.
-And did you work before with other Tunisian people?
-And how did you get in touch with Mrs Rambourg? or how did she contact you?
-If you knew she was a political candidate, would it have changed the contract with her?
What would have changed?
I don’t know. It is hypothetical, so I don’t know.
-Because by answering “possibly”, I thought I understood that there were other things that you would have done differently had you knew about her intentions. What are these things?
-I am not really sure. I never really thought about it. Because she was never a candidate when we were doing what we had to do together. So out of my mind, I don’t know, I will have to think about it.
-After fact checking, Mrs Rambourg was talking publicly about becoming a presidential candidate for the Republic of Tunisia, since December 2018.
-I don’t have anything on record for that. We never have said anything about her becoming a political candidate.
-That’s a bit interesting. She applied for these election In July 2019. By that time you already agreed together on the contract, since May. And she had to prepare her application during the period of execution of the contract.
–We had fulfilled everything I was going to do in the US at that time. And like I said, there was only one other meeting left.
-With whom was this meeting?
–That’s between me and my client.
-And what was the purpose of this mission?
-Of this consulting contract. The mission that she asked for.
-She wanted to have an education and exchange campaign. Mostly with civil society organisations in the US to know about their take on Tunisia and Africa. Because, a lot of the work I do is on Africa policies in general, on the whole continent.
-What are the points that would have changed If you knew that she was a candidate?
–My answer was possibly because she wasn’t a candidate it never occurred to me. I don’t know what I would have changed, maybe I would have changed the terms of reference.
-How did you understand the point of the contract 8.B where political activity was clearly mentioned but you did not answer by yes? You just ticked the ‘no’ boxes saying she has no political activity, not financing any political activity. And her movement “Aich Tounsi” is an association. And she had been funding her political activity through the foundation as well. (waiting time)
It Is in the second page on the registration statement.
I had a legal opinion
you asked a lawyer if it is right to run a contract with her?
No, the legal opinion was about whether or not what I am doing with her requires registration. I was looking If I was allowed to file after the fact. That’s what I did in September.
-And when did you sign the extension please?
–I was supposed to get a meeting for her even now, after everything is finished, and now (she’s completely damned up ?)
I think it’s by the end of September I don’t have the file in from of me.
-How can the Tunisian authorities or other candidates be sure that there is no interference between the work that you are doing with Olfa Rambourg as a private person and the work you are doing with her as a candidate. Especially that now, we are in an electoral campaign and the contract was extended and is currently going on?
–I mean, it’s extended, because there was one meeting that I wanted to have for her, that I have not been able to secure. Other than that, there is nothing going on.
-Actually the extension is of two months. Were you charging two months for a meeting that did not take place ?
–I had a discussion with her about amending that contract. Now I am not charging for the two months. By the time I will submit my supplemental file it will be different. But my supplemental is only due in 6 months.
-Is there anything you would like to add or clarify or comment on this case?