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Mystery Ukraine group postpones US visit; ex-Rep. Sweeney ends Russia lobbying; ex-AIPAC chief asks AG to bar Palestinian leader: Wednesday’s Daily Digest

Mystery group from Ukraine postpones US visit amid election meddling concerns

A delegation of Ukrainian officials have postponed their planned visit to Washington amid concerns that Kyiv is once again getting unwittingly dragged into a US election.

A mysterious non-governmental organization called the Ukrainian Guild of Activists hired Washington strategic communications firm Tricuro for $58,000 late last month to help organize the visit this week, as we first reported on Sept. 8. Participants were meant to include representatives from the National Bank of Ukraine, the Export-Import Bank of Ukraine and the Office of the Prosecutor General.

But Tricuro principal David Sowells, the firm’s sole registered foreign agent on the account, told Foreign Lobby Report today that the delegation has been postponed until after the Nov. 3 presidential election. The news comes the same day that Republicans in Congress released a report probing the participation of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden‘s son Hunter Biden on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma

Read the story here.

New foreign lobbying filings (FARA)


Cayman Islands: The Cayman Islands Tourism Department paid Coyne Public Relations $143,000 in the six months through August to promote travel to the country.


Armenia: Alston & Bird special assistant Petrina Pyle has joined former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kansas) in representing the government of Armenia ahead of next month’s bilateral summit in Washington. The month-long, $10,000 contract comes as Armenia foe Azerbaijan has also been ramping up its lobbying. Read our story about Dole’s hiring here.

Japan: The Embassy of Japan in Washington paid Hecht, Latham, Spencer & Associates $75,000 in the six months through August. The firm did not report any political activities during the period. Earlier this month the firm disclosed that the embassy had renewed its contract through March 31. The year-long contract, which was effective in April, is for $14,300 per month, down from $16,000 previously. The firm has represented the embassy since 2001. Firm President Timothy Hecht, Chairman Stuart Spencer and Senior Vice President Franklin Phifer are registered on the account.


Russia: Former Rep. John Sweeney (R-N.Y.) stopped representing Russian state development corporation Vnesheconombank as of May 15, according to a new lobbying filing. Sweeney was hired last year to lobby regarding potential new sanctions that could impact the bank’s activities. The $62,500 a month contract was originally supposed to end on July 31. Sweeney’s lobbying disclosure for the six months since March 1 showed he held phone calls with top Republican officials including:

Subject discussed
Week of March 1
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney
New staff assignments on sanctions issues connected to the Russian Federation
Week of March 1
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.)
Any potential scheduling Russian sanctions
Week of March 8
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
Timing of sanction legislation Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (S. 482) and Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines Act (S. 1060) being brought forward for a vote (Neither bill has moved forward).
Week of March 8
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
Timing of S. 482 and S. 1060
Week of March 22
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.)
Timing of S. 482 and S. 1060
Week of April 5
Deputy White House Political Director Alex Willette
Timing of S. 482 and S. 1060; and congressional calendar
Week of April 5
White House Political Director Brian Jack
Review current White House sanctions policy
Week of April 19
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows
Any proposed new Russian sanctions
Week of April 19
White House Political Director Brian Jack
Any new staff assignments on sanctions issues connected to the Russian Federation
Week of April 19
Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway
Review current White House sanctions policy
Week of April 19 / Week of May 3
WH Legislative Affairs Director Eric Ueland
Timing of S. 482 and S. 1060; and congressional calendar

Ukraine: Alexandra Chopivsky has amended her Aug. 11 registration as a pro bono agent for Minister of Economic Development and Trade Ihor Petrashko to reflect her role as deputy chairwoman of the supervisory board of UkraineInvest. UkraineInvest describes itself as the “Ukrainian government’s investment promotion office created in 2016 to attract foreign direct investment and assist existing investors to expand their businesses in Ukraine.” The Washington-based Chopivsky is the founder of the Transnational Education Group, a nonprofit that helps connect Ukrainian students with Washington, and the director of the program on the world economy at the Aspen Institute.

Middle East

Iran: US citizen Yuram Abdullah Weiler terminated his registration with Iran’s Press TV on July 21, according to a new lobbying disclosure, the same day he registered as a foreign agent for the state-controlled outlet. Weiler told Foreign Lobby Report in July that he only registered after being approached by law enforcement over op-eds he’s contributed to Iranian media for more than a decade. Read our contributor Aaron Schaffer‘s July 29 profile of Weiler and his motivations here.

In other news

Israel/Palestine: Efforts to ice out Palestinian officials from positions of influence in the United States continue apace. Neal Sher, a former executive director of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC who’s now a lawyer for victims of the 2009 Fort Hood shooting, wrote to Attorney General William Barr and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf last week asking them to bar Saeb Erekat from entering the country. Erekat, a veteran Palestinian negotiator and leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, has been appointed a fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs for 2020-2021. In his letter, Sher says Erekat’s defense of Palestinian aid to the families of people killed or imprisoned for attacks on Israelis warrant his exclusion. Erekat used “his position of prominence to endorse terrorist activity in a way that undermines United States efforts to reduce or eliminate terrorist activities,” wrote Sher, who is also a director of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, which tracks Nazis. “Accordingly, he is ineligible to enter the U.S.” President Donald Trump shuttered the Palestinian mission in Washington in 2018 after the Palestinians refused to participate in US-led peace talks that they saw as biased toward Israel (see letter below):

Estonia: Former FBI Director Louis Freeh was in Tallin earlier this week to defend his firm’s €3 million ($3.4 million) contract for legal representation of Estonia in money laundering cases in the United States. Also working on the two-year  Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan contract are former Treasury Department official and Interpol chief Ronald Noble and Walter Donaldson, the former head of fraud investigations at Bank of America. ERR News has the story about the Estonian parliament’s questions here.