Atiku’s whirlwind visit to Washington last month was put together with the help of two U.S. lobbying firms.
Holland & Knight was hired by Atiku personally in December to help him secure a visa, in part by enlisting members of Congress to request one on his behalf, according to a lobbyist for the firm. It has been paid $80,000 so far.
Ballard Partners was hired by Atiku’s political party at a rate of $90,000 per month in September, before Atiku emerged as the party’s candidate, according to U.S. disclosure filings.
The firm’s lobbyists worked to set up a meeting with Nagy, arguing it would show that the United States wanted to encourage free and fair elections in a country where graft is endemic.
“We are not asking the administration or anyone to take sides, but to merely demand the same level of freeness and fairness,” Ballard lobbyist Jamie Rubin told Reuters.
Aside from Nagy, Atiku met with business leaders at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and at least two Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives who specialize in foreign affairs, Representative Michael McCaul of Texas and Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey.
Neither requested a visa waiver for Atiku, spokespeople for the two congressmen said.
Atiku stayed at the Trump International Hotel, owned by the president, and met with several hundred Nigerian expatriates there, according to two people who attended the gathering.
The luxury hotel is the subject of several lawsuits that allege Trump is violating an anti-corruption clause in the U.S. Constitution that limits the president’s ability to accept gifts from foreign governments.
Atiku’s supporters say they chose the hotel because they were able to book rooms at a discounted rate with only a few days’ notice.
“I think it was because of the availability of the space,” said Uche Udemadu, an official with the U.S. chapter of the People’s Democratic Party of Nigeria.
A spokeswoman for the hotel declined to comment.