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Daily Digest for Tuesday, June 23

  • National Wildlife Federation an agent of Norway? Another Iranian group joins the regime-change bandwagon; Uzbekistan fights cotton boycott; In Defense of Christians lobbyist joins Brownback’s religious freedom office

Justice Department asks grant-funded NGOs to register as foreign agents

Image by Picography from Pixabay

The Justice Department’s broadening interpretation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) is causing some more heartache. This time it’s the National Wildlife Federation that finds itself asked to register as foreign agent because it receives grant funding to combat deforestation from the Norway’s USAID, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD).

The US nonprofit is none too pleased about seeing its independence questioned. Meanwhile some advocates worry that this could spell trouble for NGOs around the world as the countries they operate see an opening to enact their own restrictions. Make sure to read our story about the stakes at play here.

Another Iran group hires regime change lobbyist

Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader

The co-founder of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the son of a late ayatollah are the latest exiled Iranian dissidents to hire a Washington lobbyist to pursue their dreams of regime change.

The self-declared Iran Transition Council hired Ayal Frank‘s AF International on June 10 to help “arrange for meetings and activities with government and media toward Iran and the current and future governments of Iran.” The group, which was formed in September, argues that the Iranian regime is teetering on the brink and that the upcoming revolution needs a guiding hand to avoid chaos and civil war.

Find out who’s behind the effort in our story here.

Uzbekistan launches PR campaign to lift cotton boycott

Image by Jim Black from Pixabay

Uzbekistan’s latest public relations hire isn’t just about touting the country’s political and economic reforms, as we first reported on Monday.

It turns out a main task of Washington PR firm Xenophon Strategies will be to fight for an end to the international boycott of the country’s cotton industry, a newly disclosed lobbying filing reveals. Read our follow-up story here.

Today’s filings


Qatar: The Qatar-America Institute has disclosed more than $500,000 in spending since April 2018, including $180,000 for appearances on John Fredericks‘ radio show, $220,000 to take Republican state lawmakers on a trip to Doha and $130,000 paid to Jonathan Smith for consulting services. The disclosures come after the Department of Justice forced the institute to register as a foreign agent of Qatar, as Foreign Lobby Report first reported on June 3.

Qatar bis: RF Binder Director Jill Metzger has signed on as a foreign agent on the New York public relations firm’s $30,000-a-month account with Memac Ogilvy on behalf of the Qatar Foundation. She will work on “media outreach and engagement to elevate and promote the public profile of Qatar Foundation within U.S. media around its three core mission areas: education, research, and community development.”

Myriad International Marketing, a California-based branch of tourism ad agency MMGY Global, has registered as a foreign agent for two new international clients:

  • Finland: Visit Finland. Date of contract: November 2019. Amount: $9,100; and
  • India: Karnataka Tourism (via Stark Communications). Date of contract: December 2019. Amount: $24,600;.

The firm has also renewed or updated five other foreign accounts:


The San Francisco nonprofit Global Conservation has hired NWG Advocacy to lobby on international conservation issues. Former congressman Gerald Weller (R-Ill.) and Robert Thompson, who served as deputy director of Legislative Affairs for the late President Ronald Reagan, will lobby on the account.


The top lobbyist for advocacy group In Defense of Christians is leaving the group to work as a special assistant for US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback. Peter Burns has been a registered lobbyist for In Defense of Christians Advocacy Inc. ever since it registered to lobby in February 2019. Burns previously worked as a policy analyst for Brownback when he was governor of Kansas.

The Justice Department’s latest Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) advisory opinions indicate a broadening interpretation of the law, Politico Influence reports. We first wrote about the opinions in Monday’s Daily Digest.