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Former Serbia envoy’s new firm taps ex-Obama aide for $1.2 million Qatar deal

Former Serbian Ambassador to Washington Vladimir Petrovic has struck a $1.2 million deal to represent Qatar via a new firm created to capitalize on ties to Joe Biden‘s presidential campaign.

Petrovic’s Praia Consultants signed the $100,000-a-month, year-long contract with Qatar lobbyist Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman to advise the firm on “US-Qatar relations and the business and political climate in the US.” The contract, which was effective Aug. 11, is expected to include “lobbying on behalf of the principal and engaging various stakeholders in the U.S.”

Barack Obama‘s former Senate campaign manager and political director Dan Shomon is registered as a Praia consultant working on the account. He will split the monthly retainer with Petrovic “at a percentage to be determined.”

Petrovic has his own deep ties to the Obama-Biden administration. He worked on several Democratic campaigns in Chicago as well as with former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm. He also served as a fundraiser for Obama’s 2004 Senate run before joining the Serbian foreign ministry. He was named ambassador to the US during Obama’s first term.

Praia was incorporated in Delaware on July 30, according to the firm’s registration with the US Department of Justice. In a phone interview with Foreign Lobby Report Monday morning, Petrovic said he started Praia in collaboration with Shomon.

“We decided to start this new firm because we’re looking into possibly doing some other stuff together in D.C.,” Petrovic said. “We both have a lot of friends working for Biden. I worked with Democrats for years, and so has Dan. We’re hoping things are going to change [in Washington].”

Petrovic said the firm would notably work to promote its clients in Midwestern states including Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Missouri.

“There’s relationships with Democrats in Congress, but also within the states,” he said. “The effective way to work and explain the positions of different clients is to go in the field in the states and develop relationships on the state and local level. That’s one of the things we’re going to work on.”

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He said advancing the business and political interests of clients often went hand in hand.

“Qatar really helps a lot of people who are employed based on Qatari investments around the US,” Petrovic said. “And I think it’s important to state that in different states.”

This is not Petrovic’s first stint representing Qatar. Another Delaware company that he registered in 2015, Pavea, was paid $400,000 to lobby for the embassy from January through August 2019.

Petrovic has also represented other Middle East clients.

From December 2017 to February 2018 he briefly lobbied for Libya’s eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar as a partner with Keystone Strategic Advisers, where he worked alongside Ari Mittleman, a former aide to Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.). Mittleman himself was only registered on the Haftar account for a few days and did not work on it, Petrovic said.

Starting in the first quarter of 2019, Petrovic also worked as an outside consultant to R & B Strategies, the Washington lobbying firm started by former Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California. He represented a Kuwaiti investment firm battling embezzlement charges against its former CEO Marsha Lazareva (the contract ended Jan. 2, 2020).

Praia’s contract with Pillsbury comes as Qatar’s regional foes and their Republican allies press the US government to rethink military ties with the Doha and force its global news channel Al-Jazeera to register as a foreign agent. Pillsbury has represented the Embassy of Qatar since March 2018.

Update: This post was updated at 10:50 a.m. on Aug. 24 with comment from Petrovic.