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Daily Digest for Wednesday, June 3

Welcome to Foreign Lobby Report’s end-of-the-day roundup, where you’ll find all our latest stories plus links to related Washington news.


‘Independent’ think tank that got $5 million from Qatar made to register as foreign agent

A Washington nonprofit that describes itself as an “independent research institute” has registered as a foreign agent of Qatar after coming under scrutiny from the Department of Justice.

The Qatar-America Institute (QAI) registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act in late May, according to a lobbying filing made public this afternoon. In the 51-page filing, the institute reveals that it received a $5.2 million pledge from the Qatari Embassy in Washington, plus another $1 million from the embassy, the Qatar National Tourism Council and the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy through March 2019.

“At the time the agreements submitted with this registration were signed, QAI did not believe these activities constituted political activities under FARA,” reads the registration, which was signed by institute Chairwoman Peggy Loar. “In response to a March 12, 2020, letter from the US Department of Justice, QAI has made the decision to register.”

Read more here.



Greenberg Traurig gets pay boost after launch of congressional Kazakhstan caucus

Greenberg Traurig has renewed its contracts with Kazakhstan’s justice ministry, Mexico’s economic secretariat and the Turkish Embassy in Washington through this year, according to a trio of newly disclosed lobbying filings.

Under the Kazakhstan contract, the powerhouse international law firm is to be paid $850,000 — a significant increase over its 2019 contract, which promised $500,000. The fee increase comes after Greenberg helped relaunch a US-Kazakhstan Congressional Caucuscontacting the offices of Reps. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, and Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., dozens of times in the weeks before they launched the group in November.

The justice ministry, which is responsible for protecting state interests on legal matters, first retained Greenberg in May 2018 for $2 million weeks after a US federal court ruled in favor of a Moldovan investor in the country’s oil sector seeking to enforce a $520 million arbitration award against Kazakhstan. In December 2017, the Bank of New York Mellon froze $22.6 billion in assets held by Kazakhstan’s National Fund — some 40 % of the fund — in the dispute with Anatolie Stati. Kazakhstan has now asked the US District Court for the Southern District of New York to obtain discovery regarding tax revenues it says Stati and his companies unlawfully diverted from Kazakhstan to the United States.

Greenberg’s contract with Mexico’s economic secretariat is more modest, promising a 15% boost in fees ($300,000) compared to last year ($261,000). Greenberg was hired by the ministry in April 2019 to provide “advice and legal counsel on the passage and implementation of the US-Mexico-Canadian Free Trade Agreement,” which was signed into law in January 2020.

Meanwhile Turkey will continue to pay Greenberg $1.5 million this year while the firm plans to dole out nearly $1 million to subcontractors Capitol CounselLB International Solutions and Venable for support.

Two former members of Congress — ex-Reps. Randy Forbes, R-Va.,and Albert Wynn, D-Md. — are among those registered to work on the Kazakhstan and Turkey accounts. Ex-Sen. Tim Hutchinson, R-Ark., was also registered on the account until he left the firm on April 30. Both countries face reputational issues in the United States, with the US State Department raising a wide array of “significant human rights” issues relating to both.


Queens NGO joins lobbying fight over disputed Guyana elections

A New York NGO representing Guyanese-Americans has become the latest party to join the escalating lobbying fight over Guyana’s contested presidential election.

The Queens-based ​International Center for Democracy hired The Cormac Group for an undisclosed amount effective May 4 to lobby on US-Guyana relations, according to a recently disclosed lobbying filing. The Miami Herald reported last month that the firm was being hired to “engage US officials on the electoral crisis,” in which the NGO supports the opposition.

Former USAID Acting Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean Jose Cardenas, who also served on the National Security Council under President George W. Bush, is lobbying on the account along with Jonathan Slade.

Cormac joins Mercury Public Affairs and JJ&B in lobbying for US support as Guyanese electoral authorities conduct a recount of the March 2 general election marred by allegations of fraud. The result of the recount, which is being monitored by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), is expected by June 16.

One of Latin America’s poorest countries, Guyana stands to reap a windfall from the discovery of oil off its Atlantic coastline. Post-election turmoil however has caused a political crisis, with President David Granger declaring victory over the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) in an election that US and European officials say “lacked credibility and transparency.”

Opposition leader and former president Bharrat Jagdeo spoke at the International Center for Democracy’s launch in 2017. Jagdeo’s party previously hired Mercury under a $150,000 contract signed in March 2019 for strategic services “in connection with issues relating to the anticipated general and regional elections.”

Meanwhile, the ruling APNU + AFC Coalition hired JJ&B for $40,000 per month in April 2020 to lobby on “on issues related to the electoral disputes now confronting Guyana.” A similar filing filed a month earlier indicated that JJ&B had been retained by the government itself, which caused an uproar in Guyana over the potential use of state funds to support one side in the electoral dispute.



1 MDB scandal: Schillings International received £320,000 — more than $400,000 — in the six months through April from global disputes and investigations law firm Kobre and Kim for “legal and consulting advice and research” on behalf of Low Taek Jho, the fugitive businessman wanted by US, Malaysian and Singaporean authorities for allegedly stealing $4.5 billion from the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.

Hong Kong: Holly Strategies stopped representing Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEX) on March 30.

Kuwait: New York-based Marathon Strategies stopped representing Kuwaiti investment company KGL Investment on Feb. 11. Marathon was one of a dozen firms hired to pressure the Kuwaiti government to drop embezzlement charges against former KGL Investment executive Marsha Lazareva. At least four other firms — Squire Patton Boggs, Ballard Partners, R&B Strategies and Fahmy Hudome International — have also quit working on the account in recent months.

Kosovo: Alston & Bird stopped working for Kosovo’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Feb. 29. The firm received $584,000 from the ministry in the six months through April. And Ballard Partners ended its work for the Kosovo government two months later, on April 21, after pocketing $156,000 from the Balkan country for the six months through April.

Japan: Rising Tides Associates of Marblehead, Massachusetts has registered to lobby for Portland manufacturer Danner Boot, which is 100% owned by Japanese footwear company ABC-Mart. The firm is lobbying in favor of regulations requiring the federal government to give preference to US-made items. Registered on the account are David Costello and Dan Sadowski.

Iraq: Holly Strategies met with House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., ranking member Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, and panel members Michael Turner, R-Ohio, and Mike Gallagher, R-Wis. in January on behalf of the Iraqi Embassy in Washington. The firm was paid $35,000 by the embassy during the six months through April.

Poland: Izabela Antos replaced Pawel Jablonski as director at the Polish Chamber of Commerce in the United States on Jan. 15. The US arm of the Polish Investment & Trade Agency spent $56,000 in the six months through April.

Japan: The Consulate General of Japan in New York paid Marathon Strategies almost $170,000 in the six months through April for media outreach and counsel.

Ethiopia: The US branch of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party raised $21,000 from members and supporters and spent about the same amount promoting the party’s point of view during the six months through April.

South Korea: The Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) spent $7.25 million across the country in the six months through April boosting business ties and investment. Six new employees joined its regional offices while 11 others ended their service in the US and returned to Korea.


Bayr and Associates received $20,000 from the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan to lobby Congress on foreign relations and energy issues in the first quarter of 2020.

The Armenian National Committee of America spent $30,000 in the first quarter lobbying Congress, the National Security Council, the State and Treasury departments and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Priorities include recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide, the protection of religious minorities in Syria and Iraq, the tensions over Nagorno Karabakh, tax and trade issues between the United States and Armenia, and US relations with Turkey and the countries of the Caucasus.