D.C. lobbyists cut ties with Egyptian government as raid controversy deepens

Several Washington lobbyists announced Saturday that they are ending their contract with the Egyptian government, as the controversy deepens over raids conducted on the offices of American advocacy groups.

Since the late December raids on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) based in the U.S. and other countries, the Egyptian government has intensified its crackdown. Most recently, the government has prevented several Americans, including the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, from leaving the country.

As the State Department intervened, the D.C. lobbying firm that represented the Egyptian government for years -- even before Hosni Mubarak was overthrown -- came under fire. Though one of the principals has argued that the lobbyists told Cairo the raids were a bad idea, the firm did send out a memo after the crackdown that appeared to justify the government's actions.

In a written statement Saturday, the PLM Group announced it was "immediately ending their relationship after a four-year engagement."

"We hope that Egyptians continue to enjoy the deepening of democracy in their country, and that Egypt remains a strong, stable and vital ally of the United States," the lobbyists said.

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The principals in the group are former U.S. Reps. Toby Moffett and Bob Livingston, as well as Tony Podesta. All three have their own separate lobbying firms in D.C.

The statement did not offer any explanation, but it comes after U.S. lawmakers put pressure on the lobbyists.

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., earlier in the week claimed "their influence-peddling undermines American values."

"Is there no shame in this town?" Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., said in an interview with FoxNews.com on Wednesday when asked about the lobbying work.

Livingston told FoxNews.com, though, that his group was not defending the raids, and in fact told the government that they were a "mistake."

Meanwhile, the U.S. government and the NGOs are struggling to get the Egyptian government to ease off.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Friday that the Obama administration had not made progress with the Egyptians on the NGO issue.

Sam LaHood, one of at least six Americans currently barred from leaving Egypt, told Fox News the workers are "kind of expecting the worst."

"There hasn't been a lot of movement -- nothing has really changed," he said.

Though the workers have not been arrested, they are concerned about the possibility. LaHood said if the case did go to trial, the penalty could be up to five years in jail.

LaHood runs the Egypt program for the International Republican Institute. The offices of the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House, other U.S.-based groups, were also raided last month, in addition to the offices of other non-American groups.

"It's a little bit scary for us to be facing these very serious allegations but, you know, also for the Egyptian employees who work for these organizations," LaHood told Fox News.

The Egyptian government closed the NGOs' offices and confiscated equipment during the raids -- the groups claim the government so far has not returned the material. They were accused of operating without the proper registration and using foreign money.