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Caribbean nations lobby on trade; DeVos family joins WeChat fray; next HFAC chair pressed on Iran: Friday’s Daily Digest

Caribbean nations lobby for textile trade deal renewal

The national flag of Haiti on a large number of metal containers for storing goods stacked in rows on top of each other. Conception of storage of goods by importers, exporters

Caribbean nations have launched a lobbying blitz to renew a key trade provision that expires at the end of the month.

Lobbyists for Trinidad and Tobago reached out to a key ally on the Ways and Means Committee ahead of a Thursday hearing on the renewal of the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA), lobbying records show. Meanwhile Haiti’s ambassador to the United States scored a coveted spot as a witness at the trade subcommittee hearing after the country’s government and private sector spent more than $500,000 lobbying on the issue since 2017.

Read our story here.

FBI analysts warn of lobbying loophole abuse

A pair of FBI analysts have just published a fascinating new study for the American Political Science Association’s annual meeting. In a paper provocatively called “finding the other Manaforts,” intelligence analysts Peter Courtney and Tiffany Lee went through hundreds of filings to look at foreign companies that file under the domestic Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) rather than the more stringent Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Between 2016 and 2018, they identified 225 firms representing 413 foreign clients that were paid over $125 million for their efforts. “Foreign entities — potentially hundreds — are likely exploiting the LDA exemption to circumvent FARA requirements and obfuscate foreign lobbying efforts,” the authors conclude.

Screen grab from the “Finding the other Manaforts”

Read the study here. (h/t @aaronjschaffer)

New foreign lobbying filings (FARA)

Russia’s Federal State Unitary Enterprise Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency spent almost $2.4 million between March and August to produce “radio shows, newswires and web articles,” according to its latest lobbying disclosure.

New domestic lobbying filings (LDA)

Alticor, a US company run by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos‘s family, has hired the Bose Public Affairs Group to lobby on President Donald Trump‘s executive order deeming Chinese app WeChat a threat to US national security. Victor Smith, the former secretary of Commerce for Indiana when Mike Pence was governor, is registered on the account. WeChat owner Tencent and its US affiliate have hired two lobbying firms and a lawyer and registered their own in-house lobbying arm to deal with the Aug. 6 order, which gives US companies 45 days to unwind their commercial relations with the company. We have the latest on the Tencent lobbying effort here.

Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld has amended its registration on behalf of California drugmaker 1776 Pharmaceuticals to note that it is 32 % owned by SVF Excalibur of the Cayman Islands. The company hired both Akin Gump and Covington & Burling in recent weeks to lobby on “reshoring production of essential medicines.” The lobbying costs are borne by Dutch firm Centrient Pharmaceuticals Netherlands.

In other news

Sixteen liberal groups are lobbying Congress to prioritize the United States’ re-entry into the nuclear deal with Iran as it chooses a new House Foreign Affairs Committee leader following the primary defeat of Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.). The groups note that all three contenders for the role should Democrats keep control of the House — Reps. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Greg Meeks (D-N.Y.) and Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) — have all expressed interest for the deal (Sherman is the only one of the three who voted against it). “It is critical that a new HFAC chairman champions the United States swiftly returning to full compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA, in tandem with Iran returning to full adherence with its nuclear obligations,” the groups wrote in a letter to lawmakers. “Any effort to complicate a mutual return to the JCPOA, such as adding unrealistic preconditions or terms, would risk scuttling the last opportunity to save the accord and avert an irreversible escalation of tensions leading to a war.” Signatories include J Street, the National Iranian American Council Action (NIAC), MoveOn and the Council for a Livable World.