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Saudis pick up ex-Georgia House leader; 27-nation trade alliance lobbies Congress on duty-free access; Indian lobby cautions against overt Trump support : Thursday’s Daily Digest

Saudis pick up former Georgia state House leader

Saudi Arabia has picked up another former state Republican official as it continues to build up its lobbying and public relations presence in the US heartland.

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Jerry Keen, a former Georgia state House majority leader who retired from government in 2010, has joined Iowa-based LS2Group‘s Saudi account as a consultant for a $5,000 fee. Keen is president and CEO of Joe Tanner & Associates. He will provide “strategic and government affairs advice, public relations and communications advice and services, and outreach and engagement with the public and media groups.”

Also joining the LS2Group account as a consultant for a $5,000 fee is Emily Bir, a former deputy press secretary for the Republican-led Michigan state Senate and director of communications for the Ohio Pork Council. She is now a senior project manager at the Templar Baker Group in Lansing.

Neither Joe Tanner & Associates nor Templar Baker have registered as Saudi lobbyists themselves.

The additions come even as LS2Group has been cutting fees for its Indiana subcontractor Hathaway Strategies, as we reported in our Sept. 16 daily roundup. The Saudi Embassy in Washington hired LS2Group in November 2019 for $126,500 per month to advocate on “the importance of fostering and promoting strong relations between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia … across select media markets throughout the U.S.” Since then it has retained the services of several state power brokers, including South Dakota Republican Party Chairman Dan Lederman and Crystal Canney, a former communications director for Sen. Angus King (I-Maine).

27-nation trade alliance lobbies Congress to preserve duty-free access

A 27-nation alliance of developing countries that benefit from duty-free market access to the US market has urged Congress not to let the program lapse at the end of the year.

Fishermen landing at Hua Hin bay, Thailand / Chaivit Chana

The Alliance of GSP Countries wrote to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees on Sept. 8 urging them to renew the Generalized System of Preferences program before it expires on Dec. 31. The program, the alliance wrote, benefits billions of people in the developing world and tens of thousands of US jobs through cheaper imports.

“We believe the GSP program is a win-win for the United States and our countries,” the letter states. “As we continue to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis it has wrought, this is the
time for the whole world to support each other as we all try to stay afloat.”

The letter was distributed on behalf of the alliance by Pilot Rock Global Strategies, which has a $5,500-a-month contract to advise the Embassy of Thailand in Washington on GSP renewal. The envoys of all 27 Alliance countries except Sri Lanka signed the letter.

Indian lobby cautions against overt Trump support

The US branch of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) repudiated some of its members’ overt support for President Donald Trump shortly before registering as a foreign agent last month.


The Overseas Friends of BJP-USA (OFBJP), which was formed in New Jersey in 1997, registered as a pro bono foreign agent of Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s right-wing party in late August. According to the lobbying filing, the party “sets up local and state chapters [of the BJP in the US] to project an accurate and positive image of India and promote the BJP in the US.”

Days before the registration, the group issued a statement — which has just been disclosed with the US Justice Department’s lobbying unit — saying it did not take a position in the upcoming US election. The statement followed a media report quoting member Dev Karlekar as saying most Indian-Americans opposed Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris, whose mother was born in India.

“Mr. Karlekar does not speak on behalf of the organization and he is not a position holder of OFBJP,” the statement said. “OFBJP cannot and does not directly or indirectly participate in or engage in any activity on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office in the US.”

The statement comes as the US office of the BJP has been battling allegations in the Indian media that it was forced to register as a foreign agent after coming under investigation for its support for Trump. The group has denied those allegations.

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