Gary Hymel is a former Hill and Knowlton lobbyist and aide to Democratic congressional leaders. In September 2008, Hymel was appointed to the Louisiana Board of Ethics, which oversees ethical standards for the state's government employees as well as the Campaign Finance Disclosure Act and the Lobbyist Disclosure Act.
"I have been around government for 50 years as a newspaper reporter, as a congressional staffer for the leadership and as a lobbyist, Hymel told The Advocate' in Louisiana. "I have seen the government from a lot of different angles."
The "New Grassroots" Lobbying
In a 1993 interview, Hymel was asked how what he termed a "new grassroots" approach to PR and lobbying "will this shape the way Americans view the issues? Does it cause ethical dilemmas?". In response, Hymel stated:
- "The premise here is that everything the lobbyist says is true and factual. You have to be able to make a good case. You can't walk up to a congressman or expect the press to believe something that isn't true. So, it determining, for instance if the people are being treated unfairly or if it means loss of jobs back home. There could be an ethics problem if you're not telling the truth. But my promise is we always start with telling the correct story. Our founder, Bob Gray, always said, "You have this access to Congress, but if you abuse it, you lose it." In other words, when you go talk to a member of Congress, you have to have the facts and you have to know the downside--what's going to happen if the congressman helps you. There's no excuse for being untruthful or unfair."
In the same interview, Hymel was also asked what his idea was of "effective lobbying?" He explained that central to his effectiveness was that congressmen "are predisposed to help me because they trust me. That's what the whole thing operates on--trust. That's what life is about too, finding out who to trust. The most effective thing is for them to know you ahead of time. So they will believe you because they know what you stand for."
"Congressmen", he continued, "love to right wrongs. That's what they a there for. If you can come in and show them a case where your client is being treated unfairly you are about 90 percent there. You have to be able to know the other side of the issue and what problems might arise if the congressman helps you. Knowledge and being truthful make the winning strategy," he said.
In another interview, Hymel boasted that he once worked for a client's attorney who drafted some language which Hymel had inserted into a committee report. Dun's Business Month explained that courts use these committee reports "to determine Congressional intent in legislation" and that later "a judge decided for the client and cited the report's language". "I couldn't have written the language and he couldn't have gotton it into the report," Hymel said.
Hymel and Gulf War 1
In the aftermath of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, Hill and Knowlton landed an account for the Kuwaiti royal family. As part of its work, H&K ran a front group, Citizens for a Free Kuwait. One of the most sensational claims ahead of the Congressional vote on whether to go to war or not, was tearful testimony by Nayirah who claimed that she had witnessed Iraqi soldiers taking 15 babies from incubators in the Al-Adan Hospital in Kuwait City and that they had been left "on the cold floor to die." While the testimony had a powerful impact, it was later proven to be false. In an opinion column in the New York Times in January 1992, John MacArthur, the publisher of Harpers, wrote that "a Hill and Knowlton vice president, Gary Hymel, helped organize the Congressional Human Rights Caucus hearing in meetings with Mr. Lantos and Mr. Porter and the chairman of Citizens for a Free Kuwait, Hassan al-Ebraheem. Mr. Hymel presented the witnesses, including Nayirah. (He later told me he knew who she was at the time.)"
MacArthur also stated that prior to working on the Kuwait account, Hymel "was best known to the caucus for defending the human rights record of Turkey" and that he was also "one of the firm's lobbyists for the Indonesian Government, which has killed at least 100,000 inhabitants of East Timor since 1975".
Initially H&K did not respond to the accusations. On the day the story first appeared on January 6, 1992, NPR's Mara Liasson reported that the PR firm "did not return repeated calls from NPR".
In a January 15 letter to the editor of the New York Times, written the day that the newspaper followed up MacArthur's original column with an editorial, the PR firm's then CEO, Thomas E. Eidson, defended the company's actions and claimed that Nayirah's version of events was accurate. However, in his response Eidson did not specifically respond to the points mentioning Hymel beyond rejecting the accusation that the firm "collaborated with anyone to produce knowingly deceptive testimony." There is no indication of a response by Hymel in the media at the time. (For the full details of the controversy, see Citizens for a Free Kuwait).
In May 1991, The National Journal reported that Hill and Knowlton had for the previous three years represented the Church of Scientology and that Michael F. Barrett Jr., the former chief counsel to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, said that Hill & Knowlton helped the Scientologists press for a subcommittee investigation of the antidepressant drug Prozac." Barret stated that Hymel had set up a meeting at which a Scientology affiliate had requested the investigation. "I just made the introductions and they did the presentations. . . . I didn't advocate one way or another," Hymel said.
In April 2002, O'Dwyers reported that Hymel was one of a team of seven Hill and Knowlton consultants "that is trying to salvage Enron" and were "managing the flow of information between new management and Capitol Hill."
In August 2005 O'Dwyers PR Daily reported that Fidelity Investments had hired Hill & Knowlton "as its lobbyist dealing with Securities and Exchange Commission regulations." It reported that one of the two H&K staff managing the account was Hymel. In March 2008 the SEC "charged fund manager Fidelity Investments and 13 current or former employees including high-ranking executives for improperly accepting more than $1.6 million in travel, entertainment, and other gifts paid for by outside brokers courting the massive trading business Fidelity generates on behalf of the mutual funds it manages."
- 1965-1972: staff aide to the late U.S. House Majority Leader Hale Boggs, Democrat-New Orleans;
- 1972 - 1981: staff aide for former U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill, Democrat-Massachussetts;
- 1981 - he joined Gray & Co, which was later taken over by Hill & Knowlton;
Articles and resources
Related SourceWatch articles
- Will Sentell, "Ex-lobbyist Hymel joins state ethics panel", The Advocate' (Louisiana), September 20, 2008.
- "Laws", Louisiana Ethics Administration Program website, accessed September 2008.
- Jeannie Humphries, "P.R. changes its story: Advertising and public relations aren't the same in Baton Rouge", The Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, Volume 11, Number 12, January 26, 1993, page 24.
- John M. Barry, "Business lobbyists battle each other: companies are out for themselves only", Dun's Business Month, January 1, 1987, Volume V129, page 63.
- John R. MacArthur, "Remember Nayirah, Witness for Kuwait?", Op-Ed, New York Times, January 6, 1992.
- Mara Liasson, "Human Rights Committee Heard Iffy Data on Iraq", All Things Considered, NPR, January 6, 1992.
- Thomas E. Eidson, "P.R. Firm Had No Reason to Question Kuwaiti's Testimony", Letter to the Editor, New York Times, January 17, 1992.
- Carol Matlack, "Killing An Account", The National Journal, Volume 23, Number 19, May 11, 1991, page 1122.
- H&K Delivers PA Pitch", O'Dwyers, April 26, 2002.
- "Fidelity Hires Hill & Knowlton", O'Dwyers PR Daily, August 25, 2005. (Sub req'd).
- "SEC Charges Fidelity, Executives and Employees for Improperly Accepting Lavish Gifts Paid For by Brokers", Media Release, March 5, 2008.
- Christopher Madison, "A Man of the House: Gary Hymel Washington lobbyist", The National Journal, Volume 21, Number 11, March 18, 1989, page 646.
|This article is a stub. You can help by expanding it.|