- US oil & gas co. lobbies to get its Georgia lease back; Chinese agent created fake consultancy to trick potential sources; Saudi PR firm targets Indiana GOP; Qatar embassy takes over Texas hurricane aid; UAE boosts PR for princess’s foundation by $482,000
Georgia reinstates deal with US oil & gas company after $700,000 lobbying blitz
The government of Georgia this week reinstated a deal with a Texas oil and gas company following mounting pressure from Washington.
The effort has sparked criticism inside the country of undue lobbying influence by the Frontera Resources Group. The company has spent $700,000 on lobbying since its dispute with Georgia began in 2017, while its chairman also contributed to the campaigns of Texas Republicans who took its side.
Meanwhile a parallel US lobbying war is raging between the country’s governing party and the opposition, to Frontera’s benefit. Read our deep dive into the influence battle here.
Chinese agent created fake consultancy to trick potential sources
A Singaporean man today pleaded guilty in federal court to acting as an undisclosed agent of China’s intelligence service. Jun Wei “Dickson” Yeo faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
According to the US Justice Department, Yeo admitted to working for the intelligence service for the past four or five years. He was tasked with obtaining non-public information about the Commerce Department, artificial intelligence and the China-US trade war.
Yeo acknowledged making “contact with several individuals from lobbying firms and defense contracting companies.” According to the US government, he recruited targets through social media by creating a fake consulting company that had the same name as a “prominent US consulting firm that conducts public and government relations.”
Three US citizens — working on the US Air Force’s F-35 program, the US Army at the Pentagon, and the State Department — were successfully recruited to write reports for Yeo. He told them that the “the reports were for clients in Asia, without revealing that they were in fact destined for the Chinese government.”
“The Chinese Government uses an array of duplicity to obtain sensitive information from unsuspecting Americans,” Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s National Security Division John Demers said in a statement. “Yeo was central to one such scheme, using career networking sites and a false consulting firm to lure Americans who might be of interest to the Chinese government. This is yet another example of the Chinese government’s exploitation of the openness of American society.”
NEW FOREIGN LOBBYING FILINGS (FARA)
Japan: Tetsuya Ishihara has registered as a foreign agent for the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) office in New York. He serves as director of intellectual property.
Russia: RM Broadcasting of Florida received $415,000 in the first half of the year from Russia’s Federal State Unitary Enterprise Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency to broadcast Radio Sputnik in the Washington, DC and Kansas City metro areas. RM in turn paid Way Broadcasting of New York $180,000 and the Alpine Broadcasting Company of Naples, Fla. $30,000 during the period.
Qatar: The Embassy of Qatar in Washington has renewed its contract with Bridge Builder Communications of Houston through June 30, 2021. The rate is $22,000 per month, down from $25,000. Founder and principal George Smalley is the only registered agent on the account. The firm provides “communications advice and assistance related to the State of Qatar’s humanitarian assistance projects,” including the Qatar Harvey Fund that assists victims of Hurricane Harvey that devastated the Gulf of Mexico coast in 2017. Smalley will also support Qatar on “general emergency preparedness matters and assist with strategic counsel during any future emergency events.” Under the terms of the new contract, Bridge Builder is due to begin providing its services not from Houston but “from an office located at the Embassy, or otherwise provided at Embassy expense” starting Sept. 1.
Saudi Arabia: The Larson Shannahan Slifka Group (LS2 Group), an Iowa public relations from working for the Saudi Embassy in Washington, paid its subcontractor Hathaway Strategies of Indiana $43,000 in the first half of the year. Hathaway reached out to state media, business leaders and Republican officials during the period regarding ‘the importance of fostering and promoting strong relations between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” Firm president Anne Hathaway and vice-president Timothy Phelps are registered as foreign agents on the account. During the period Hathaway and her firm together gave more than $20,000 to Republican candidates in Indiana, including $12,000 to Nate Harter‘s run for attorney general (Harter lost in this month’s GOP primary to former congressman Todd Rokita).
United Arab Emirates: The UAE’s Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation has agreed to pay New York communications firm Teneo Strategy a one-time $482,000 fee on top of its existing $250,000 per month contract with the foundation. The fee is for “more detailed research we have agreed to undertake as part of the Stakeholder Research & Insight Services.” The foundation is a major player in the Gulf philanthropic space. It was founded by Princess Salama, the wife of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, widely considered to be the UAE’s de facto ruler. Read our original June 15 story about the contract here.
MMGY Global terminated three of its tourism accounts in the six months through May: The Bermuda Tourism Authority (Dec. 31); Deutsche Zentrale fur Tourismus e.V (Dec. 31); and the government of St. Maarten (March 31). The Kansas City company still represents the British Virgin Islands Tourist Board & Film Commission; the Costa Rica Tourism Board; the Macao Government Tourism Office; the Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board; the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority; Tahiti Tourisme; Tourism Ireland; and Turismo de Los Cabos.
The Austrian Tourist Office received $600,000 from Vienna to promote the country in the US during the first half of the year.