- Bulgaria corruption battle comes to Washington; Guyana lobbyists fail to prevent penalties; Akin Gump doubles rate as Pacific islands compact deadline looms; Raytheon lobbies on congressional arms sale notifications
One of Bulgaria’s top business clans has hired a US lobbying firm after getting caught in the middle of a political clash over widespread corruption in the Balkan country.
The Bobokov family, owners of the Prista Oil motor oil company, hired Alexandria Group International for $156,000 to “assist in representing your interests in Washington and in Bulgaria as those interests pertain to Bulgarian-US bilateral relations.” The lobbying registration states that the firm will raise “awareness of the state of and developments related to the business climate, civil society, corruption, transparency, the judiciary, and the overall rule of law in Bulgaria.”
The contract comes as Bulgaria is witnessing its biggest protests in seven years as citizens rally behind President Rumen Radev‘s showdown with Prime Minister Boyko Borissov over accusations of government graft. In a twist, the Bobokovs have been accused of having had corrupt dealings with both sides. Read the story here.
Guyana lobbyists fail to prevent US penalties
The State Department handed lobbyists for Guyana’s ruling coalition a resounding defeat today by announcing the first penalties against President David Granger‘s government.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters the department would be issuing visa restrictions on individuals “responsible for or complicit in undermining democracy in Guyana” as well as their immediate family members. “The Granger government must respect the results of democratic elections and step aside,” Pompeo said.
The announcement is a blow to JJ&B, which has been trying to convince Congress and the Donald Trump that Granger’s APNU + APF coalition won the March election and that the left-leaning opposition PPP is anti-US. Lobbying for the PPP were Mercury Public Affairs and the International Center for Democracy, a New York nonprofit close to the PPP that hired two lobbying firms to defend its case. Read our latest on the lobbying fight here.
NEW FOREIGN LOBBYING FILINGS (FARA)
Marshall Islands: Akin Gump has renewed its contract to represent the Republic of the Marshall Islands for $40,000 per month, twice the previous rate, effective June 1. The firm said the fee hike “reflects the increased work” in connection with ongoing negotiations between the Pacific nation and the US government over renewal of the compact of free association that expires in 2023. Akin Gump is notably lobbying to restore access to Medicaid for Marshallese citizens in the United States as part of its lobbying efforts, as Foreign Lobby Report previously detailed here.
United Arab Emirates: American Defense International has renewed its contract with Akin Gump to represent the UAE Embassy in Washington. The $45,000-per-month contract runs from July 2020 through June 2021. Firm President Michael Herson is registered as a foreign agent on the account along with Todd Harmer and Bonnie Shindelman.
Cambodia: Pac Rim Bridges helped arrange meetings with staffers for Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) for Cambodian Ambassador Chum Sounry in January. The stated purpose was to discuss the Cambodia Democracy Act, which passed the House of Representatives in July 2019 but has gone nowhere in the Senate. The firm was paid $208,000 from the Cambodian government in the six months through April, according to its latest filing.
Kurdistan Regional Government (Iraq): Officials with the Kurdistan Regional Government US liaison office met with Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) and interviewed Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Joey Hood for a podcast in March. They also met with Senate Armed Services Committee staff and attended a Museum of the Bible panel on persecuted Christians in the Middle East, according to a lobbying disclosure for the six months through June. The office reported getting $972,500 from the home office in Erbil during the period and paying $100,000 each to a trio of lobbying firms: BGR, Dentons and Greenberg Traurig. In addition, the registration for Director of Public Affairs Alexander Esbary was terminated on May 22.
Congo / Qatar: Ashcroft Law Firm associate attorney Nathan Brennan has registered as a foreign agent on the firm’s accounts with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Qatar.
Max Rayden, an account supervisor with Edelman, has registered to provide “PR/media relations support” for cryptocurrency trading platform BitMEX in the United States. The contract is with Seychelles-registered HDR Global Trading, which operates BitMEX.
NEW DOMESTIC LOBBYING FILINGS (LDA)
The Association of the German Confectionery Industry has hired Arent Fox to lobby on the “imposition of tariffs on German confectionery products.” Former congressman Phil English, Republican of Pennsylvania, and Dan Renberg are registered to work on the account.
Second quarter filings are pouring in ahead of the July 20 deadline. We curate the relevant ones so you don’t have to.
VantageKnight stopped lobbying for the Citgo Petroleum Corporation on May 20. The firm was paid $150,000 in the second quarter to lobby Congress, the White House and the departments of State, Energy and Treasury regarding the impact of Venezuela sanctions on the US refiner. A subsidiary of Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, Citgo cut ties with its parent in early 2019 after the Donald Trump administration imposed sanctions on PDVSA to starve the Nicolas Maduro government of oil revenues. VantageKnight had been lobbying for Citgo since 2016. Firm founder and Democratic strategist Manuel Ortiz was the only lobbyist on the account.
US defense contractor Raytheon paid Democratic strategist Manuel Ortiz and his firm VantageKnight $50,000 in the second quarter of 2020. The firm lobbied Congress regarding ‘”congressional notification of proposed foreign military and direct commercial sales” and “U.S. defense cooperation with countries in Asia, Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East.” The Donald Trump administration is looking to end congressional review of arms sales following lawmakers’ failed 2019 attempt to block the sale of missile and other weapons to Saudi Arabia, the New York Times reported last month. Among the congressional concerns was a request by Raytheon to expand manufacturing in the kingdom. Separately, Raytheon terminated its in-house lobbying on April 4.
Halliburton spent $100,000 on in-house lobbying in the second quarter. The company notably lobbied Congress and the State Department on “issues pertaining to trade with respect to Energy Independence, including the Venezuela General License.” Halliburton is one of several oilfield services companies that regularly receive special permission to remain in Venezuela despite US sanctions.
The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company spent almost $502,000 on in-house lobbying of Congress and the Commerce Department in the second quarter. The company lobbied on the CHIPS for America incentives bill and exports controls.
Maersk Inc., the US subsidiary of Danish shipping company Maersk, spent $170,000 on in-house lobbying in the second quarter. The company notably lobbied Congress on reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.
Airbus subsidiary Airbus Americas paid Squire Patton Boggs $50,000 in the second quarter to lobby Congress and the US Coast Guard.
Teijin Aramid USA, the US subsidiary of Teijin Aramid company of the Netherlands, paid Squire Patton Boggs $30,000 in the second quarter to lobby Congress and the departments of Defense and Commerce. The firm lobbied on Buy America provisions, tariffs and Defense and Appropriations bills.
SK Hynix America, the US subsidiary of South Korean semiconductor company SK Hynix, paid Squire Patton Boggs $130,000 in the second quarter. The firm lobbied Congress and the Department of Energy on US investments and related issues. The Korean company recently hired its third lobbying firm amid increased US scrutiny on chipmakers’ ties to China, as we first reported on June 1.
Swiss building materials LafargeHolcim paid Alpine Group Partners $50,000 in the second quarter to lobby Congress on infrastructure, trade and COVID-19 relief in the second quarter.
Swedish Match North America, the US subsidiary of the Swedish tobacco company, paid Alpine Group Partners $30,000 to lobby Congress on tobacco legislation and trade with Cuba in the second quarter.