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.
When US-UK trade talks kicked off last month, Politico described them as a David versus Goliath battle pitching the $2.9 trillion British economy represented by relative neophyte Liz Truss against a US giant almost eight times its size with veteran trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer at the helm.
But the British have a trump card.
Faced with the daunting challenge of reaching a favorable free trade deal that can help the United Kingdom negotiate a better break with the European Union and move past the coronavirus-induced downturn, the British Department for International Trade announced in March that it had hired London-based multinational law firm Linklaters for £6 million, or about $7.5 million. Now new filings disclosed under the US Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) reveal that Linklaters in turn has hired five US law firms, each with their own legal specialty, to help with negotiations.
Read the full story here.
NEW IN LOBBYING
BY THE NUMBERS
New foreign lobbying contracts top $7 million
Foreign countries and individuals disclosed lobbying contracts worth more than $7 million last month, according to a Foreign Lobby Report analysis of documents filed with the US Justice Department during the month of May.
Topping the list is Paris-based Pakistani businessman Hashim Mughal, who hired Sonoran Policy Group on May 18 for $2 million to help build pressure on Saudi Arabia to release his former associate, Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud. The prince was among 11 royals arrested in January 2018 on orders of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after holding a rare protest.
Argentina’s Ministry of International Trade and Foreign Investment meanwhile hired Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer for $1.932 million on May 7 as the South American country seeks to renegotiate about $65 billion in foreign debt. The Glover Park Group in turn is set to make $432,000 as a subcontractor to Arnold & Porter.
And the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ministry of Finance hired Baker & McKenzie in March to “assist the government with a broad economic restructuring mandate and assist with the government’s multilateral relations with the International Monetary Fund.” The contract is for at least $1.35 million.
The six other new registrants include the Pacific island of Vanuatu, which is lobbying on climate change.
Several other firms have also disclosed work on behalf of foreign clients without detailing their contracts.
Carlos Abadi and his New York firm DecisionBoundaries are assisting Global Sovereign Advisory of France in advising the Association of Banks in Lebanon regarding restructuring financial claims that the ABL membership holds against Lebanon. And BCW (Burson Cohn & Wolfe) registered for the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (via BCW Asia Pacific).
Qatar parts ways with lobbyist who worked on NASA outreach
Qatar has parted ways with a longtime lobbyist who helped the Gulf nation build ties to NASA even as the space programs of its regional rivals are poised to reach new heights.
The Gallagher Group stopped lobbying for the Qatari Embassy in Washington effective March 27, according to a new filing. Firm President James Gallagher, a former senior legislative staffer at the Department of Defense and the office of then-Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), had represented the embassy since February 2015.
Gallagher first began to reach out to the National Aeronautics and Space Agency last August, past lobbying filings show, and eventually met with NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard on Oct. 1, 2019. Records indicate that the pair discussed the “Qatar-NASA relationship,” but offer no further details.
Neither Gallagher nor the Qatari embassy responded to a request for comment.
Qatar has been locked in a pitched battle for influence in Washington against Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates since June 2017, when the two countries began their ongoing blockade of Doha over its ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran. The rivalry has played out across the US political spectrum, with each side spending millions of dollars to get the Donald Trump administration, Congress and the media on their side.
“It would be naive to think that these countries pursuing space exploration are doing so without geopolitical rivalries factoring into the equation,” said Giorgio Cafiero, CEO Washington geopolitical risk consultancy Gulf State Analytics. Cafiero added that technical partnerships among the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries — including in space exploration — were a shared vision when the body was first established in 1981, but with today’s tensions each country is left to go it alone.
For now the momentum in the Gulf space race appears to reside with the United Arab Emirates, which is gearing up to launch its Hope Probe (“Al Amal” in Arabic) to Mars this summer from Japan, with a scheduled arrival date of February 2021. Last year, the UAE’s $6 billion space program garnered international headlines when Hazza al-Mansour spent eight days in space, the country’s first astronaut to go to space. Mansour flew to the International Space Station on a Russian spacecraft launched from a Kazakh spaceport leased to Moscow. The UAE space agency has also been cooperating with the United States, signing a new arrangement with NASA in October 2018 that outlines cooperation across a range of areas related to space exploration and human spaceflight.
In a May 7 blog post for the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington (AGSIW) co-authored with Kristian Alexander, Cafiero writes that the UAE has visions of become a leader in space exploration that can compete on an equal footing with established Middle East programs in Israel and Iran.
“In the Emirates, the narrative is partly about this initiative factoring into the broader context of international partnerships and cooperation,” the authors wrote. “The UAE seeks to bring together other Arab countries with the UAE taking the lead via the Arab Space Cooperation Group, focusing on environmental and weather-related projects.”
Saudi Arabia’s ambitions and ties to NASA go back even further. Saudi Space Commission Chairman Sultan bin Salman Al Saud was aboard the Discovery space shuttle when it launched into space in 1985. More recently in 2009, the US space agency and the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) signed a joint statement that allows for collaboration in lunar and asteroid science research.
Qatar’s ties to the US space program have lagged behind. After relying on a European rocket to carry its first satellite into space in 2014, Doha chose a US delivery mechanism for its second one in 2018 — a Falcon 9 operated by private entrepreneur Elon Musk‘s SpaceX.
ODDS AND ENDS
NEW FOREIGN LOBBYING FILINGS (FARA)
Qatar: The Gallagher Group stopped lobbying for the Qatari Embassy in Washington effective March 27, according to a new filing. Firm President James Gallagher had represented the embassy since February 2015. (See our story on Gallagher’s NASA outreach above). The firm reported $135,500 in fees from the embassy since March, but no political activities.
Japan: Former Republican presidential speechwriter Landon Parvin reported $76,400 in payments from the Japanese Embassy in Washington for the six months through May to write “remarks and speeches.”
Guyana: JJ&B contacted congressional staff and the State Department regarding the country’s disputed elections and efforts to have the Carter Center assist in monitoring the electoral recount. Read our piece on Guyana lobbying here.
Kuwait: Southfive Strategies received $39,500 from Tricuro for work on behalf of Kuwaiti investment firm KGL Investment in the six months through April. Southfive helped secure media coverage calling for Kuwait to drop embezzlement charges against former KGL Investment executive Marsha Lazareva, including a Sept. 19, 2019 Washington Examiner op-ed from In Defense of Christians President Toufic Baaklini.
NEW DOMESTIC LOBBYING FILINGS (LDA)
Iraq: Ayal Frank‘s AF International ceased lobbying for Iraqi Kurdistan businessman Abbas Hamza Abbas Ako effective June 5. Frank had been lobbying Congress and the State Department for Ako regarding “US-Iraqi relations” since November 2019 and has disclosed a total of $7,500 in lobbying-related payments.
Libya: Linden Government Solutions reported no lobbying activity on behalf of eastern strongman Khalifa Hifter‘s self-described Libyan National Army in the first quarter.
Guatemala: The State Department today designated former presidential Chief of Staff Gustavo Adolfo Alejos Cambara “due to his involvement in significant corruption.”
Iran: US sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) and its Shanghai-based subsidiary, E-Sail Shipping Company Ltd (E-Sail), went into effect today.