By Phil fairbanks
Michael Caputo, Republican strategist, radio talk show host, Senate Intelligence Committee witness, is taking on a new role – foreign lobbyist.
And his first client is Somalia.
Caputo, the East Aurora public relations expert with close ties to President Trump, will represent a country plagued by terrorism, corruption and famine and that sees the United States as a big part of the solution.
“It helps that he has a good relationship with the administration,” said Abukar Dahir Osman, Somalia’s ambassador to the United Nations. “We also think he can help us navigate the issues.”
For Caputo, who has served many roles over the years, this is his first stint as a lobbyist.
He represents the Somali Embassy in Washington, D.C., and his longtime relationship with President Mohamed A. Mohamed helped get him the job.
It’s a friendship that began in Western New York – Mohamed came here as an asylum-seeker and eventually gained U.S. citizenship – and took root when Mohamed became involved in local Republican politics. He also earned a degree from the University at Buffalo and eventually settled on Grand Island.
Born in Somalia’s capital city of Mogadishu, Mohamed returned to his homeland to run for president in 2016 and won. He was picked by the nation’s Parliament from a pool of 20 candidates, including the incumbent president.
I’m honored to be doing this,” Caputo said of the appointment. “I also feel compelled to do it.”
Caputo thinks the U.S. can do a lot more to help stabilize Somalia. He says he and Trump see eye to eye on what’s best for the East African country.
Already known for systemic corruption and frequent droughts and famines, Somalia is facing a newer challenge – an ongoing dispute with al-Shabab, a terrorist group known for suicide bombings.
In July, one of those attacks killed the mayor of Mogadishu and six others.
“Somalia is in a critical transition,” Ambassador Osman said, “and the United States is a very important partner, especially in the area of security.”
Osman also made it clear the country is looking for help in easing its debt with the International Monetary Fund.
“The Somali people deserve the kind of life we have here in the United States,” Caputo said.
Before seeking asylum here, Mohamed worked at Somalia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and later at the Somali Embassy in Washington, D.C.
He eventually moved to Buffalo, home to a large Somali refugee community, and went to work at the state Department of Transportation. He also worked on Republican Joel A. Giambra’s campaign for county executive and served in his administration.
In 2010, Mohamed returned to Somalia to briefly serve as prime minister, a job that many belief earned him widespread support among the Somali people.
Caputo, who has done political work in Russia, was interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee as part its probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
At the time, he said the probe disrupted his life, caused him financial hardship and hurt his family.
The Buffalo News