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Ex-Florida Rep. Connie Mack joins Uribe campaign; Saudis build ties to Black Caucus; Treasury sanctions Russian agent who lobbied against Biden: Thursday’s Daily Digest

Ex-Florida Rep. Connie Mack joins campaign to free Colombia’s Uribe

President George W. Bush congratulates President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia after presenting him with the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009 / White House photo by Chris Greenberg

Republican lobbying firm DCI Group has announced that former Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-Fla.) has joined its advocacy campaign on behalf of former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

A former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s panel on the Western Hemisphere, Mack said he was “honored” to defend “the integrity of Alvaro Uribe against false attacks” and “the importance of the vital U.S. partnership with Colombia” that the former president helped create. He has not registered as a lobbyist, however.

Uribe was placed under house arrest on Aug. 4 as the country’s Supreme Court decides whether he should stand trial for bribery and witness tampering in relation to years-old allegations of ties to right-wing paramilitary groups. His son signed a $40,000-a-month contract with DCI last month.

Mack has lobbying ties to both Colombia and DCI. Read our story here.

Saudis build ties to Congressional Black Caucus

The Saudi government’s newest lobbying firm is helping the Gulf country build ties to a historically large and powerful Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).

The Williams Group belatedly registered as an agent of the Saudi Embassy for $30,000 per month back in February with the mission of “building relationships with members of Congress and staff.” The contract was effective Oct. 1, 2019. Registered on the account are firm founder and president Michael Williams, who served as special assistant for legislative affairs under President Bill Clinton, and consultant Jennifer Stewart, a former aide to CBC members Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) and Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.).

A new lobbying filing indicates the firm was paid $270,000 in the first six months of the contract to provide “strategic advice on engagement with members of Congress.” The firm did not engage in any direct lobbying, just as Williams told reporters when the contract was first disclosed, but the new filing offers insights into the group’s political ties. During the period, Williams disclosed making $5,000 worth of political contributions to four CBC members: Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), William Lacy Clay, Jr. (D-Mo.), Lucy McBath (D-Ga.) and Meeks. He also gave $2,500 to the Congressional Black Caucus PAC and $6,100 to three black candidates for Congress: Mondaire Jones ($2,800) and Ritchie Torres ($2,800) of New York and Candace Valenzuela ($500) of Texas.

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Williams Group filing / US Department of Justice

New domestic lobbying filings (LDA)

The Utah nonprofit Operation Underground Railroad, which fights to save children around the world from sex trafficking, has hired its first lobbying firm. Barker Leavitt will lobby on “reauthorization of the Public Private Partnership Advisory Council to End Human Trafficking (PPPAC); federal policy generally related to human trafficking issues; [and] assistance with writing and editing the PPPAC’s 2020 Report to Congress.” The sole registered lobbyist on the account is partner ​Ryan Leavitt, a former legislative director for Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).

The Council for a Livable World spent $35,000 on lobbying of Congress in the second quarter. The group lobbied on defense and non-proliferation issues, including the nuclear deal with Iran and legislation to ban the first use of force against North Korea or Iran without prior approval from Congress. The group announced its support for Joe Biden last month, the first time in its 58-year history it has endorsed a presidential candidate.

In other news

The US Treasury Department today sanctioned a pro-Russian Ukrainian lawmaker for his alleged efforts to influence the 2020 election.

Andrii Derkach and other Russian agents employ manipulation and deceit to attempt to influence elections in the United States and elsewhere around the world,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “The United States will continue to use all the tools at its disposal to counter these Russian disinformation campaigns and uphold the integrity of our election system.”

Derkach helped distribute anti-Biden information to congressional Republicans and met with President Donald Trump‘s lawyer Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine in December. He also hired a lobbying firm for $2,000 per month in February to help arrange meetings with executive branch officials and the House and Senate foreign affairs panels. That firm, Global Management Association, is 75 % owned by the wife of Derkach’s former parliament colleague Andrii Artemenko (aka Andy Kuchman), according to its registration with the US Department of Justice. Artemenko, who now resides in the Washington area, is listed as the firm’s executive chairman, with Nabil Bader of Georgia serving as president. The contract was terminated on July 31, Foreign Lobby Report first reported on Aug. 18.