After the White House, Obamas Will Lease Mansion From Founder of Lobby Team for Egyptian Junta

Home co-owner Joe Lockhart founded a public relations firm hired by the regime of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Photo Credit: Pete Souza/Public Domain

Much has been made of Politico's fresh revelations that President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are planning to lease an 8,200-square-foot mansion in the wealthy Kalorama neighborhood of Washington, D.C. after they leave the White House.

The right-wing Daily Caller wasted no time in running a predictably Islamophobic article, in which reporter Eric Owens gleefully noted that the home is also “1,096 feet from the Islamic Center of Washington — one of the largest mosques in the Western Hemisphere." Other outlets marveled at the glamour of the post-presidential mansion, which is worth roughly $6 million and will place the Obamas in one of the most upscale zip codes in the country.

Lesser noticed, however, is that the deal was struck with Joe Lockhart, who is a longtime Democratic Party insider and the founder of a lobby firm hired by the repressive Egyptian government. Joe Lockhart owns the mansion along with his wife, Giovanna Gray Lockhart.

Until at least earlier this year, Joe Lockhart was managing director and founder at the the Glover Park Group, a Washington, D.C.-based public relations firm. Numerous media outlets are reporting that Lockhart recently accepted a position as executive vice president for communications for the National Football League in Manhattan, but his LinkedIn page still associates him with the Glover Park Group.

As Alex Kane previously reported for AlterNet, the Glover Park Group has worked for the Egyptian government since 2013, for the purpose of improving its image to media outlets and helping it forge ties with U.S. elected representatives. It has received at least $5 million dollars from Egypt in exchange for its services.

Headed by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Egyptian government rose to power through a military coup and has orchestrated a large-scale, violent crackdown on political dissent, “detaining, charging or sentencing” at least 41,000 people between July 2013 and May 2014 alone, according to the count of Human Rights Watch. Al-Sisi oversaw the 2013 massacre in Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya Square, where up to 1,000 people were slaughtered in a single day.

Amid these abuses, al-Sisi has received favorable treatment from the Obama administration, which last year approved shipments of weapons and fighter jets to his government. In February, Intercept reporter Zaid Jilani revealed that Obama proposed to remove key human rights conditions on U.S. military aid to Egypt.

In addition to his professional link to al-Sisi's government, Lockhart has numerous ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton, serving as press secretary and advisor under the former’s administration. He also worked as a strategist for John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. Giovanna Gray Lockhart is an editor at Glamour magazine.

The Lockharts have declined to answer questions from the press, instead referring queries to the White House, and Joe Lockhart did not immediately respond to a request for comment from AlterNet. At this point, it is unclear whether the deal between the Lockharts and the Obamas was arranged directly or through a third party, or whether the transaction was made while Joe Lockhart was still on the payroll of the lobby team working for Egypt. But at the very least, the handover of the mansion offers a potent illustration of how two insider families have profited handsomely from their time in Washington. 

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Sarah Lazare was a former staff writer for AlterNet and Common Dreams. She coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.