Americas, New in Lobbying

Firm close to Trump pockets $2 million from Venezuela

A lobbying firm close to President Donald Trump pocketed $2 million this spring for less than a month’s worth of work on behalf of Nicolas Maduro‘s government in Venezuela, the firm confirmed in its latest filing with the US Justice Department.

The Sonoran Policy Group terminated its contract with Venezuelan Attorney General Reinaldo Munoz Pedroza three weeks after signing up as a subcontractor for Foley & Lardner in mid-January. Registered on the account were founder Robert Stryk, an Oregon winery owner and unpaid West Coast adviser to Donald Trump‘s 2016 campaign, and CEO Christian Bourge.

The firm was supposed to assist with the law firm’s legal efforts to ease US sanctions against the socialist country. Instead, the contract abruptly ended after Foley dropped Venezuela as a client on Feb. 7 under pressure from Florida Republicans. Sonoran terminated its agreement that same day, the new filing confirms.

Sonoran also disclosed another $2.3 million from three other clients in the first half of the year:

  • $1.25 million from Isabel Dos Santos of Angola, Africa’s richest woman, via her Portuguese-based investment vehicle Terra Peregrin;
  • $600,000 from Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and
  • $40,000 from the Democratic Party of Albania.

The firm also signed a $2 million contract in May with Pakistani businessman Hashim Mughal to advocate for the release of his associate Saudi Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud. The filing indicates Sonoran has not yet been paid however.

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Sonoran disclosed a grand total of one telephone call in terms of political activity during the period, on behalf of the opposition Democratic Party of Albania. This was to discuss diplomatic travel to the United States with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Palmer.

Foley & Gardner for its part hasn’t kept a dime, according to its filings.

In addition to the $2 million it passed on to Sonoran, the firm received another $1.05 million from Venezuela. That amount has since been transferred to Venezuela’s new counsel, Amsterdam & Partners, which has signed a $4.05 million contract with Pedroza to take over as counsel through the end of the year.

Amsterdam & Partners founder Robert Amsterdam declined to say whether he was taking action to force Sonoran to return its $2 million payday. He said the firm the results of its work for Venezuela would become apparent in a week or two but declined to offer any details.

This is not the first time Sonoran walks away with millions after a sudden turn of events. In 2017 the firm made $5.4 million after its contract with the Saudi ministry of interior was terminated after just six weeks following a palace coup.