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Texas firm parts ways with Chinese client amid Uighur backlash; PR firm takes 50% pay cut for Saudi work; meet Bobi Wine’s US lobbyist: Monday’s Daily Digest

Texas PR firm parts ways with Chinese client accused of using forced Uighur labor

Brussels, Belgium. Feb. 5, 2019. Activists protest the treatment of Uyghur Muslims by Chinese authorities in Xinjiang province at a protest outside the headquarters of the European Union / Alexandros Michailidis

A Texas public relations firm has parted ways with a Hong Kong textile manufacturer accused of using forced labor amid an intensifying US and international outcry over China’s treatment of its Uighur Muslim minority.

TrailRunner International ended its representation of Esquel Enterprises on Aug. 14, according to a new lobbying filing covering the six months through September. Esquel is the world’s largest manufacturer of woven shirts, making about 100 million shirts annually for an array of global brands.

TrailRunner disclosed a total of $105,000 in fees from the company, less than a sixth of the $635,000 initially agreed to when the two parties signed a year-long contract back in March. Since then Esquel’s fortunes have continued to deteriorate as the Donald Trump administration has sought to punish China for human rights violations in its northwestern Xinjiang province.

On July 20 the Commerce Department announced that it had placed Esquel subsidiary Changji Esquel Textile Co. on its export blacklist. In a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross that same day, Esquel Group CEO John Cheh wrote that the company “absolutely and categorically oppose[s] forced labor.”

Registered on the account were TrailRunner Chairman and CEO James Wilkinson, co-CEO Lulu Cheng MeserveyPatrick Shortridge and Georgia Walker. Law firm Akin Gump is still registered as a lobbyist for Esquel.

New foreign lobbying filings (FARA)


Washington nonprofit campaign consultancy Vanguard Africa continued to represent opposition politicians Tundu Lissu of Tanzania and Robert Kyagulanyi (better known as Bobi Wine) of Uganda during the six months through September. A new lobbying disclosure shows Vanguard founder Jeffrey Smith discussed human rights in Tanzania and the October 28 general election with :

  • Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Africa and the Sudans Makila James and Tanzania desk officer Sarah Van Horne;
  • John Tomaszewski, the top Africa aide to Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) Chairman Jim Risch (R-Idaho); and
  • International Republican Institute Africa Director Gregory Kearns and senior program manager Adam George.

For Kyagulanyi, Smith organized phone briefings on the 2021 Ugandan election with the State Department’s Makila James; senior House Foreign Affairs Committee member Brad Sherman (D-Calif.); and SFRC Africa policy aide Liz Lewis.

Vanguard has represented Kyagulanyi pro bono since September 2018. One of the Africa’s biggest musical stars and a member of parliament since 2017, Kyagulanyi announced in July 2019 that he would run to end President Yoweri Museveni 34-year reign in elections scheduled for early next year. Vanguard also signed a pro bono agreement to represent Lissu in February 2019. A former member of parliament grievously injured in a shooting three years ago, Lissu returned to Tanzania in July to run against President John Magufuli.


Bahamas: The Bahamas Tourist Office spent $21 million promoting the country in the first half of the year.

Bermuda: Kivvit, the Chicago PR firm co-founded by Barack Obama‘s chief campaign strategist David Axelrod, has added public affairs assistant Matthew Bowen to its Bermuda Business Development Agency. The firm has been working for the public-private partnership since 2009 but only registered with the Department of Justice in July. The latest contract, covering the period from February through June 30, was for $20,000 per month.


China: During the six months through August Wilson Global Communications reached out to several members of the Congressional Black Caucus regarding the suspension of study abroad programs and to leaders of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) regarding potential virtual study abroad programs on behalf of the China-US Exchange Foundation (CUSEF). Firm founder Julia Wilson has served as CUSEF’s US liaison since 2010.

Japan: The New York branch of the Japan National Tourism Organization received $2.35 million from Tokyo to promote travel to Japan in the first half of the year. Meanwhile the Los Angeles office received $2.14 million in the six months through July.

Hiroshi Yoneyama has registered as executive director of Research and Information Services for the New York office of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO).

Malaysia: Broydrick and Associates has added Antonina Mangiola as an assistant on its account with the Malaysian Rubber Export Promotion Council. She replaces Samantha Dorsey. During the six months through August the firm was paid $20,000 for research and advocacy. The firm registered as a foreign agent of the council in February amid US concerns over allegations of forced labor in Malaysia’s world-leading disposable rubber glove industry. The US banned certain imports from the world’s top rubber glove maker, Malaysia’s Top Glove, in July even as it lifted a ban on another Malaysian manufacturer amid shortages of personal protective equipment amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

South Korea: Former Rep. Bob Livingston (R-Ala.) has registered to lobby along with Livingston Group international practice area director Cathryn Kingsbury and managing partner J. Allen Martin on behalf of a South Korean megachurch blamed for the country’s largest COVID-19 outbreak. The San Francisco Zion Church, the US branch of Korea’s Shincheonji Church of Jesus, hired the Livingston Group in August to help raise awareness about what it claims is persecution by the Korean government (read our story here). The registrations by Livingston, Kingsbury and Martin date to early September but have only now been published on the Department of Justice lobbying website.

The Korea Institute for International Economic Policy, a government-funded think tank, paid the Korea Economic Institute of America $1.4 million six months through August to help promote US-Korean economic relations and other bilateral issues.


Russia : Georgetown Strategies stopped lobbying for Russian state development corporation Vnesheconombank as a subcontractor to former Rep. John Sweeney (R-N.Y.) on May 15. Sweeney terminated his work for the bank that same day, as we first reported last week. Sweeney paid Georgetown Strategies a total of $127,500 since hiring them in August 2019.

Middle East

Saudi Arabia : Iowa-based LS2 Group (Larson Shannahan Slifka Group) continues to slash the rates it pays to its subcontractors working for the Saudi Embassy in Washington. Colorado public relations firm Summit Information Services has amended its year-long, $10,000-a-month contract with LS2Group down to $5,000 per month, effective Sept. 1. The contract ends Oct. 31. LS2 Group previously slashed its $10,000-a-month payment to Hathaway Strategies of Indiana, as we reported Sept. 16.

United Arab Emirates: Edelman has added Abu Dhabi-based account director Mohammed Moneer Mahmoud al-Daqqaq to its public relations account with Dubai’s Mashreqbank, the oldest privately owned bank in the UAE. He joins a half-dozen other registrants in Washington, London, Hong Kong and Dubai.

Edelman FARA filing for Mohammed Moneer Mahmoud al-Daqqaq

The PR firm was hired over the summer to provide “strategic advice,” “non-US media management and media monitoring” and “coordinating with media in non-US regions in response to specific media queries” for the bank. The agreement calls for Edelman to be paid $20,000 up front before hourly rates kick in.