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.
The Gambia is taking its international human rights crusade against Myanmar to the United States with a legal push to force Facebook to turn over the contents of accounts linked to the persecution of Myanmar’s Rohingya.
Lawyers for the tiny west African nation this week asked the US District Court for the District of Columbia to order the social media giant to turn over “all documents and communications” produced by Burmese officials with millions of followers on Facebook and Instagram as it presses its case that Myanmar committed genocide. The Gambia wants access to the accounts of more than a dozen military figures to help build its case at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. These include the accounts of Commander-in-Chief Ming Aung Hlaing and those of the military’s Myawady television network and the Myanmar Police Force.
“Statements on social media, including Facebook, made by officials and representatives of Myanmar hostile to the Rohingya, or encouraging violence against them … may constitute evidence of genocidal intent necessary to support a finding of responsibility for genocide,” The Gambia told the court in the June 8 filing.
Read more here.
NEW IN LOBBYING
Exiled Kremlin critic’s human rights group hires US lobbyist as Putin eyes term extension
The human rights organization founded by exiled oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky has hired a former aide to Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny as a US lobbyist.
Virginia-based consulting firm VA Solutions was retained by London-based Human Rights Project Management to lobby on “human rights, democracy, and rule of law internationally.” The registration was effective May 1.
VA Solutions is run out of McLean by Anna Veduta, a former Navalny spokeswoman and former global outreach director for Latvia-based Russian-language news outlet Meduza. Veduta did not respond to requests for comment about her hiring, which comes just weeks before Russians prepare to go to the polls on July 1 to vote on constitutional changes that could extend President Vladimir Putin’s rule until 2036.
Last week, Khodorkovsky blasted the proposed changes in comments to Forbes. It is “no surprise,” he said, that Putin wants to “rush with the plebiscite vote to legitimize the constitutional amendments.” Putin’s approval ratings have tumbled over his lackluster handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit Russia particularly hard.
Khodorkovsky has had a long and tumultuous history with Putin. A billionaire who ran the Yukos oil company before the Russian government broke it up in 2003 and charged him with fraud, he served almost a decade in prison until Putin pardoned him in 2013.
In 2015 Khodorkovsky left for London, where he founded Human Rights Project Management with the goal to “connect and unite Russian citizens who seek a state governed by the rule of law with a strong civil society, regular free elections and the promotion of European values,” according to its lobbying filing with the European Union’s Transparency Register. The group was originally called OR (Otkrytaya Rossia), or “Open Russia,” but changed its name in 2017.
Moscow declared the organization “undesirable” in April 2017 after it backed nationwide protests calling for the resignation of then-Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev over his alleged corruption. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both condemned the group’s blacklisting and the subsequent prosecution of its members in Russia.
While Khodorkovsky’s organization was not previously registered to lobby in Washington, it has been registered to lobby European officials in Brussels since 2015. Lobbying filings show that the group spends between €25,000 and €50,000 ($28,500 to $57,000) annually on EU lobbying. In 2015 agents for the organization met with Alice Richard, a member of the Cabinet of then-First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, who was responsible for the rule of law and charter of fundamental rights portfolio.
ODDS AND ENDS
NEW FOREIGN LOBBYING FILINGS (FARA)
India: BGR Government Affairs has renewed its contract with the Republic of India for another six months, through September. BGR is expected to provide “strategic counsel, tactical planning and public relations assistance on policy matters” before the executive branch, Congress and “select state governments,” as well as “academic institutions and think tanks.” The contract is for $350,000, which works out to the same monthly rate as previously. It was signed by BGR Chairman Ed Rogers and Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu. BGR has represented India since 2005.
Nigeria: NWG Advocacy has belatedly registered as a foreign agent for work carried out in 2015 on behalf of Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury. The consulting firm is run by former Rep. Jerry Weller, Republican of Illinois, who also personally registered as the sole agent on the account. NWG worked as a subcontractor to Corallo Media Strategies, which also disclosed past influence operations on behalf of Chagoury earlier this year. In the new filing, NWG reports that it sought to arrange Capitol Hill meetings for two members of then-Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan‘s administration (Chief of Staff Hassan Tukur and chief economic adviser Mustafa Chike-Obi) to promote Jonathan’s agenda ahead of that year’s elections (Jonathan ended up losing to Muhammadu Buhari). Weller disclosed a single meeting on March 6, 2015, with Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), the then-chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa. An additional filing indicates Weller notably touted the Goodluck administration’s economic accomplishments and its fight against extremist group Boko Haram.
Saudi Arabia: Houston-based Saudi Refining Inc. disclosed no lobbying activities, payments or expenses on behalf of the government of Saudi Arabia or the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco) in the six months through April.
NEW DOMESTIC LOBBYING FILINGS (LDA)
Israel: Israeli-American 3D printing manufacturer Stratasys has registered to lobby on “3-D printing technology related to COVID-19.” The company is headquartered in Rehovot, Israel.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has updated its reports on lobbyist compliance with the Lobbying Disclosure Act for 2017, 2018 and 2019 with updated information about the number of lobbyists who failed to report their political contributions as required under the law.
The State Department unveiled its annual Report on International Religious Freedom.