Foreign actors disclosed new lobbying and public relations contracts worth at least $2.4 million last month, according to a Foreign Lobby Report analysis of documents filed with the US Department of Justice in August.
A year-long, $1.2 million contract between newly formed Praia Consultants and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman to represent the Embassy of Qatar accounted for half that total. Former Serbian Ambassador to the US Vladimir Petrovic and former Barack Obama Senate campaign aide Dan Shomon launched the firm on July 30 with the express goal of leveraging ties to former Vice-President Joe Biden‘s presidential campaign, as we first reported on Aug. 23.
“We decided to start this new firm because we’re looking into possibly doing some other stuff together in D.C.,” Petrovic told Foreign Lobby Report. “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].”
In second place, Washington communications firm Seven Letter signed a seven month contract for $40,000 per month with the Embassy of Japan to promote tourism and the country’s public health initiatives amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The contract also includes four two-week digital advertising campaigns for a total of $200,000, for which Seven Letter will receive the standard industry commission.
Rounding out the top three, Sonoran Policy Group disclosed a $450,000 contract to represent El Salvador’s State Intelligence Agency.
Other notable influence campaigns include DCI Group‘s $120,000 contract to consolidate US support for former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe as he battles old allegations of links to murderous right-wing paramilitary groups back home (read our Aug. 26 story here). And Greystone Global Strategies‘ relatively tiny $45,000 deal to represent Parliament Speaker Jeanine Mabunda has had an outsize impact in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where she is widely seen as a stalwart ally of former President Joseph Kabila against his successor Felix Tshisekedi (read our Aug. 5 story here).
Finally, St. Louis-based public relations firm Fleishman-Hillard has signed a $9,500 deal with its Korean affiliate to help Trade Minister Yoo Myung-Hee in her bid to lead the World Trade Organization (read our Aug. 18 story here). This is the second WTO election campaign contract: Mercury Public Affairs has previously disclosed work on behalf of former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as we first reported June 18.
Together the value of new registrations filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) fell by some 80 % between July and August. The raw numbers are somewhat misleading, however.
For one thing, the July numbers were skewed by Sonoran’s $10 million deal to represent jailed Algerian businessman Ali Haddad (read our July 29 story here). As for contracts disclosed in August, both Kasowitz Benson Torres and Daniel J. Edelman plan to charge hourly rates once they burn through initial retainers of about $20,000 each. The two firms represent Israeli businessman Naftali David Ehrenfreund and Dubai’s Mashreqbank, respectively.
Two other contracts also include variable rates. Certus Insights‘ polling work on behalf of Canadian public utility Hydro-Quebec, which is battling Maine environmentalists opposed to its New England power line project, is worth between $34,000 and $48,000 depending on the survey methodology adopted. And Rokk Solutions‘ year-long contract to pitch op-eds to US media on behalf of Guatemala’s former ambassador to the US, Manuel Espina, is worth between $1,500 and $2,500 per month depending on whether the firm writes them itself (read our Aug. 11 story here).
On the other hand, Sonoran’s $450,000 contract with El Salvador is in doubt after the office of President Nayib Bukele told the Associated Press it had not approved the contract and would have it annulled. To date, the contract remains listed as active in the US Justice Department’s FARA database.
Finally, lobbying and public relations disclosed almost $6 million in contract renewals last month. Topping the list was Hogan Lovells, which disclosed a two-year renewal of its contract with the Embassy of Saudi Arabia for a total of $4.2 million.