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Daily Digest for Thursday, June 4

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.


Revealed: China media arm spent more than $10 million on US newspaper advertorials

The Chinese government has spent more than $10 million to get its point of view in front of American newspaper readers in recent years, newly disclosed lobbying filings reveal.

The China Daily Distribution Corp., which publishes the global edition of the Chinese Communist Party’s English-language newspaper, disclosed the payments for the first time in a lobbying filing for the six months ending in April. The corporation also amended older filings dating back to November 2016, disclosing similar payment information that had not previously been included.

The financial disclosures come as US newspapers have come under increasing criticism from China hawks to stop publishing the Chinese government’s China Daily supplement. Lawmakers have also asked the Department of Justice to investigate whether the corporation was flouting the US foreign lobbying law known as the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) by failing to disclose itemized payments.

The China Daily Distribution Corp. noted in its filing that it was amending its past reports “to correct a deficiency,” suggesting the lawmakers’ request was heard loud and clear.

Read more here.



Ex-Rep. Roskam lobbies for China restaurant giant amid stock market delisting threat

China’s biggest restaurant company has hired international law firm Sidley Austin to regarding congressional efforts to force Chinese companies to comply with international auditing standards or risk getting booted off US stock exchanges.

Shanghai-based Yum China Holdings hired the firm effective June 1, according to a lobbying filing disclosed today. Sidley is expressly tasked with lobbying on the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, which aims to tighten oversight of Chinese-owned corporations.

The US Senate passed the bill on May 20. A similar bill from Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., awaits action in the House of Representatives.

The legislation “prohibits certain companies from listing and trading their securities on any US securities exchanges or through any other method regulated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) if the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) is prevented from reviewing the companies’ audits,” Sidley Austin wrote in a May 21 note about the legislation. “Text of both bills, statements by Sens. John Kennedy, R-La., and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., cosponsors of the Senate bill, and statements by Rep. Sherman, demonstrate that the legislative intent was to address Chinese companies listed on U.S. securities exchanges,”

Lobbyists on the account include ex-Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., a former subcommittee chairman on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. The other lobbyists are former House Financial Services Committee senior counsel Michael BordenPatricia DeLoatche, a former aide to former Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah; and former House Appropriations Committee staffer Tracey LaTurner.

Yum China Holdings operates more than 9,200 restaurants in 1,400 cities and towns across China, according to its website, and has exclusive right to operate and sub-license the KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell brands in China. The Fortune 500 company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange as YUMC.


Qatar lobbyist, wife contribute $200,000 to Trump re-election

Foreign lobbyist and Republican fundraiser Brian Ballard donated $100,000 to President Donald Trump‘s re-election campaign in March while Ballard’s wife donated another $100,000, federal lobbying and campaign finance records show.

A vice chairman of the Republican National Committee finance committee who led fundraising operations for the Trump campaign in Florida in 2016, Ballard currently represents the governments of Qatar, Zimbabwe and the Dominican Republic, as well as Beirut-based telecom company Africell Holding and Syria advocacy group Citizens for a Secure and Safe America. His firm also worked for the government of Kosovo until this April.

The March payments to the Trump Victory Committee are documented in Ballard Partners’ latest lobbying disclosure as well as filings with the Federal Election Commission. That month, Trump held a fundraising brunch at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, where one of the 900 or so attendees was later diagnosed with having the coronavirus.

It’s the Ballards’ largest combined contribution to the Trump Victory committee. A year earlier, in March 2019, the two Floridians contributed a total of $100,000 to the Republican National Committee. Ballard is also a top Trump bundler, helping raise $1.3 million, Bloomberg Government reports.

Ballard Partners’ lobbying filing, which covers the six months through April, indicates that the firm brought in almost $1.5 million from foreign clients in the six months through April. That includes $750,000 from the Dominican Republican, $575,000 from Qatar and $156,000 from Kosovo.

During that time period, lobbyists for the firm met with the following US officials:

  • On behalf of Zimbabwe: National Security Council Senior Director for African Affairs Erin Walsh and the State Department’s then-special envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa Peter Pham (Pham is now special envoy for the Sahel);
  • On behalf of the Dominican Republic: National Security Council Director for Western Hemisphere Mauricio Claver-Carone and US Ambassador to the Organization of American States Carlos Trujillo.



China: Huawei Technologies USA paid Burson Cohn & Wolfe (BCW) arm Pivot Integrated Communications $138,000 in the six months through April for “strategic counsel, analysis and planning” in support of the company’s “communications in the US market.”

Kosovo: Former Trump campaign political adviser Sam Nunberg received almost $25,000 for his work for the Democratic Party of Kosovo for the six months through March. The sole political activity he disclosed during that period was the placement of an op-ed from party President Kadri Veseli in Newsmax ahead of the October elections, which Veseli’s party lost.

Mercury Public Affairs has registered London-based digital strategies consultant Thomas Jock McMillan to its accounts with the governments of Zimbabwe and Haiti, both of which are handled by Mercury International UK. McMillan was already registered as a foreign agent for the Libyan National Government and the Turkey-US Business Council (TAIK).


Iran: State Department announces the release of US Navy veteran Michael White after almost two years of imprisonment.

Syria: The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issues new Syria sanctions regulations.

Terrorism: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attends virtual Ministerial Meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. The coalition’s Small Group issued a joint communique.