- $10 million deal with jailed Algerian dominates July lobby spending; Saudi spymaster suing MBS has parallel lobbying campaign; Japan embassy hires COVID PR help; another firm registers for Quebec utility’s Maine campaign
New foreign influence contracts top $12 million in July
Foreign actors disclosed new lobbying and public relations contracts worth more than $12 million last month, according to a Foreign Lobby Report analysis of documents filed with the US Justice Department in July.
The impressive tally is up 50 % over June but is dominated by just one client: Jailed Algerian businessman Ali Haddad, who signed year-long, $10 million deal with the Sonoran Policy Group in late July. The construction tycoon and his brothers have been sentenced to years in prison on corruption allegations as the new government under President Abdelmadjid Tebboune goes after people who got rich during the 20-year reign of Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Read our story about Haddad’s campaign here.
The only other deal worth more than $1 million is for an international media strategy to promote Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman‘s $500 billion vision for a futuristic city in the desert. Burson Cohn & Wolfe (BCW) will be paid $1.1 million to promote Neom. The five-month contract dates to late April but was only registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) last month. We have the details on the global PR campaign here.
In other news, the World Health Organization (WHO) has hired Hill & Knowlton to defend its reputation amid lingering attacks from President Donald Trump (more on that here). And the Embassy of Ethiopia once again has a lobbying firm as it comes under pressure from the Trump administration to assuage Egypt’s concerns over its dam on the Nile, as we first reported July 17.
Read the full story here.
Saudi spymaster suing MBS has parallel lobbying campaign
A former top Saudi intelligence official who filed a lawsuit in US federal court today accusing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of trying to kill him is also lobbying the US government on the matter.
Saad Aljabri, who has been living in exile since 2017, alleges in the suit that Prince Mohammed sent a team of agents to Canada to kill him. He says two of his children still living in the country have been detained to pressure him to come back. The Saudi government accuses Aljabri of misspending $11 billion during his time at the Interior Ministry and want him to return home to face the allegations.
Since April 2020, Aljabri’s son, Khalid Aljabri, has retained the services of Barry Bennett, a Republican strategist and adviser to President Donald Trump‘s 2016 campaign, to lobby on “emigration of foreign nationals for humanitarian reasons,” lobbying records indicate. Bennett’s Avenue Strategies reported $150,000 in payments from the account in the second quarter of 2020.
The lobbying records indicate did not lobby either chamber of Congress during the period. Still, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle wrote a letter to the president last month urging him to help secure the release of Aljabri’s children, Bloomberg reported. The letter was signed by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).
NEW FOREIGN LOBBYING FILINGS (FARA)
Canada: Market research firm Certus Insights of Arlington, Va. has been hired by Forbes Tate Partners of Washington to survey likely Maine voters ahead of a November referendum on the construction of a power line from Canada. The two firms are working for Quebec public utility Hydro-Quebec. The value of the contract is between $34,000 and $48,000, depending on the survey methodology used. Registered on the account are Certus president Andrew Rugg, vice-president Natalie Copeland and chief analyst Ronald Faucheux. Hydro-Quebec is under fire for its campaign to influence the Maine vote, which we’ve written about here.
Japan: The Embassy of Japan in Washington has hired Washington communications firm Seven Letter for $40,000 per month. The firm will provide “media outreach and advertising campaigns to support the goals of the foreign principal, including the promotion of tourism in Japan, as well as raise awareness of Japan’s public health initiatives and COVID response.” The contract runs from Aug. 1 through Feb. 28, 2021. The embassy has also agreed to four two-week digital advertising campaigns for $200,000. Registered on the account are Seven Letter employees Amber McDowell and Ralph Posner and consultant Michael Treon.
Uzbekistan: The Uzbek Ministry of Employment and Labor Relations has retained Tashkent-based AH5 Ventures to produce a report on the impact of COVID-19 on the country’s labor market and the government’s response. The $7,000, short-term effort is funded by the International Labor Organization as part of an awareness campaign around measures to “mitigate the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the overall labor market situation in the country, additional risks of forced and child labor, support of decent employment, occupational safety and health, and social protection.” AH5 director Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, a US citizen based in London, has registered as an agent on the contract out of an abundance of caution. The report comes as Uzbekistan has hired a Washington PR firm to showcase improvements in labor rights in view of ending the global boycott of its cotton industry, as Foreign Lobby Report first reported here.
Kazakhstan: The Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Kazakhstan paid RJI Capital Corporation $900,000 in the first half of the year to monitor and report on congressional activity. RJI in turn paid Hutton-Transcon Joint Venture $50,000 during the period for representation before the House and Senate. Hutton-Transcon’s lobbyists notably met with Reps. Vicente Gonzales (D-Texas), Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) and Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) as well as several congressional staffers to discuss a possible congressional delegation to the country and the establishment of permanent normal trade relations. They also discussed a July 2019 congressional letter to President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev calling for the release of businessman Iskander Yerimbetov with staffers for Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Taiwan: Taiwan’s de facto embassy in Washington, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO), paid Gephardt Group Government Affairs $110,000 in the six months through July. Lobbyists for the firm contacted dozens of House Democratic offices to urge them to sign on to a May letter to World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom requesting that Taiwan be invited to attend that month’s World Health Assembly (WHA). The letter garnered 205 signatures but the request went unheeded. (Read more: WHO hires PR giant to target key influencers amid Trump attacks).
Burson Cohn & Wolfe (BCW): The world’s third-largest public relations firm by revenue disclosed $1.4 million in fees and expenses from foreign clients registered under FARA in the first half of the year:
- $1.042 million from Hikvision USA, the US subsidiary of the partially state-owned Chinese maker of video surveillance products; and
- $386,000 from the government of the UAE emirate of Ras Al Khaimah.
The firm also disclosed work on behalf of the government of the Philippines, but not payments. BCW provided “counsel and assistance for the Bangko Sentral ng Philipinas (BSP) and the government’s economic team in the area of strategic communications to promote BSP’s economic initiative and economic messages internationally.” This included “advice on communicating about assessments of the country’s credit ratings [and] Coronavirus response.” BCW reported no payments or political activities related to Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party.
NEW DOMESTIC LOBBYING FILINGS (LDA)
Mayer Brown will lobby on trade policies for the US subsidiary of London-based chemicals and gas company Ineos. Lobbying on the account is former House Ways and Means Policy Director Warren Payne.
Payne has also registered to lobby for ArcelorMittal USA, the US subsidiary of the Luxembourg-based multinational steel manufacturer. He will lobby on “tax legislation related to the monetization of Net Operating Losses.”