- Convicted Albanian lobbied to silence US Embassy
- Burundi presidential hopeful drops lobbying
- South Korea Gov. buys CNN op-ed on tourism with North Korea
- Saudi ambassador ramps up heartland outreach
Former Albanian Interior Minister accused of abuse of office lobbied to silence US Embassy in Tirana
A former top Albanian official hired a Romanian firm to try to stop the US Embassy in Tirana from commenting on the criminal charges against him, a new lobbying disclosure reveals.
Former Albanian Minister of Interior Affairs Saimir Tahiri hired Stone Strategic Solutions of Bucharest in January 2020 for €20,000 per quarter ($24,000) following his conviction for abuse of office last year. The firm was hired to “engage in email, phone calls, letters, and potentially meetings with members of Congress, State Department, Justice Department, and Intelligence Community. The intent is to provide them with documentation provided by the foreign principal concerning on-going issues in Albania.”
At the time, the registration claimed that Tahiri has encountered “issues” with “the judicial process and with public statements made by US Embassy personnel that may have influenced the outcome of decisions made by authorities in Albania.” In September 2019 the embassy released a statement applauding his conviction while lamenting that he only received a suspended sentence after he was found not guilty of much more serious charges of international drug trafficking and association with a criminal organization.
The new filing indicates that Stone Strategic Solutions terminated its lobbying on July 31. It indicates that Tahiri traveled to the United States in February and met with staffers for Reps. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) and Ken Buck (R-Colo.) as well as with State Department South Central European Affairs adviser Paul Pfeuffer (Buck is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, while Rice sits on the House Homeland Security Committee). In every meeting, he requested that a letter be sent to the US Embassy in Pristina “requesting they refrain from comments during his appeals.”
New foreign lobbying filings (FARA)
Burundi: Washington Consultants stopped lobbying for would-be presidential candidate Valentin Kavakure on Feb. 10, according to a new lobbying disclosure. Kavakure hired the firm in October 2019 for $5,000 for help “making and maintaining relationships with political leaders, members of the press, and Washington, DC influencers.” Kavakure ended up being ruled ineligible to run in the May 2020 election, which saw Evariste Ndayishimiye elected president. Washington Consultants was incorporated in Delaware in February 2019 by Ugandan immigrant Bigz Bigirwa.
Hong Kong : The Hong Kong Trade Development Council received $3.1 million from its headquarters to run offices in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago during the six months through July. Los Angeles director Yat Fung Lo left the position on April 29. Read our June 1 interview with regional director Ralph Chow here.
Micronesia: Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer attorney Emily Reeder is no longer registered as a foreign agent for the government of the Federated States of Micronesia as of Aug. 25.
New Zealand: The Washington office of Beef & Lamb New Zealand received $50,000 from its head office in Wellington during the six months through July to promote imports of New Zealand meat into the USA, Canada and Mexico. The office attended the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association annual conference in San Antonio, Texas, in February.
South Korea: West Wing Writers stopped representing Gov. Choi Moon-Soon on Aug. 24. The governor of the northeastern province bordering North Korea hired the firm in January for $10,600 to “assist in drafting an op-ed on the relationship between North + South Korea.” The termination was effective one day that CNN.com published an opinion piece from the governor titled, “The key to unlocking peace with North Korea for the United States is cross-border tourism.”
“Partners of South Korea, including some US officials, have also voiced concerns and opposed tourist sites like Mt. Kumgang, claiming they undermine United Nations sanctions against the North. However, international law allows revenue from individual tourists to flow into the North, so this should not present an obstacle.”Gov. Choi Moon-Soon CNN op-ed
Taiwan: Taiwan’s de facto embassy in Washington paid Jackson, Miss. law firm Watkins & Eager $90,000 to lobby Congress during the six months through July. The firm met with Rep. Michael Guest (R-Miss.) to discuss a potential trip to Taiwan. It also reached out by phone or email to 22 House members to discuss a May letter from Congressional Taiwan Caucus co-chairmen Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Albio Sires (D-N.J.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) to World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus requesting that Taiwan be invited to participate in this year’s World Health Assembly (205 lawmakers ended up signing the letter). The firm also met with Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture Andy Gipson at the presentation of 100,000 protective face masks from Taiwan to the state and discussed possible donations with the attending physician to the US Capitol, Brian Monahan. Finally the firm inquired about adding subtitles to videos on the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Library of Congress.
Albania: Washington Consultants stopped lobbying for Enri Ceno of the ruling Democratic Party of Albania effective April 16. Ceno, the head of the conservative party’s department of Human Rights and Equal Opportunities, hired the firm in his private capacity in April 2019 for $8,000 for help “making and maintaining relationships with political leaders, members of the press, and Washington, DC influencers.”
Ireland: Tourism Ireland CLG in New York received $5.6 million dollars from its home office to promote travel to the Emerald Isle in the first half of the year. Vice-President of Marketing William Condon‘s registration was terminated June 30, while Joan 0’Shaughnessy and Noirin Hegarty were added as directors on March 11.
Saudi Arabia: The Saudi Embassy in Washington recently hosted virtual events featuring Ambassador Reema Bandar Al Saud with the Maine World Affairs Council, the Greater Des Moines Partnership, the Indiana Council on World Affairs and the Colorado Business Roundtable, according to new lobbying disclosures by the Larson Shannahan Slifka Group. The embassy hired the Iowa public relations firm in November 2019 for $126,500 per month.
Related: Saudi lobby hires ex-aide to Maine’s King in play for US heartland
New domestic lobbying filings (LDA)
Americans for a Free Syria spent $8,000 in the second quarter lobbying Congress and the State Department on sanctions against the Bashar al-Assad government and legislation to ban assistance to regime-held areas.
Related: Inside the scramble to shape Syria sanctions
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