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Hungary launches PR blitz against Biden; Armenian diaspora targets Azerbaijan lobbyists; DLA Piper drops Azerbaijan Railways: Tuesday’s Daily Digest

Hungary hires ‘right-wing Twitter pugilist’ to push back against Biden attacks

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban answers questions at a press conference in Berlin in July 2018 / photocosmos1

Hungary has hired a right-wing national security hawk with a large following on social media to push back against accusations of democratic backsliding amplified by presidential candidate Joe Biden.

The Hungarian Embassy in Washington hired David Reaboi and his Florida-based Strategic Improvisation Inc. for $35,000 to combat negative press about the country.

The country’s public relations campaign has surged in the closing days of the US presidential race after former Vice-President Biden slammed the Hungarian government during his Oct. 15 town hall in Philadelphia. Orban was the only European leader to endorse Donald Trump for president in 2016 and is supporting his re-election against what he calls the Democrats’ “moral imperialism.”

Read the story here.

Armenian diaspora targets firms working for Azerbaijan

The Armenian Assembly of America today announced a campaign to pressure lobbying and public relations firms to “reject blood money” from Azerbaijan, which is fighting Armenia over control of the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. The group’s co-chairs, Anthony Barsamian and Van Krikorian, said they would be reaching to the firms as well as their other clients to urge them to take their business elsewhere.

“Instead of flacking for the Aliyev regime whose leader [President Ilham Aliyev] has promised to wipe out the Christian Armenians ‘like dogs,’ these firms need to stop taking blood money from Azerbaijan and Turkey if they have any conscience or sense of American patriotism,” they said. The Armenian-American diaspora is estimated at between 500,000 and 1.5 million and is politically powerful on Capitol Hill.

Representing the government of Azerbaijan are BGR Public Affairs, public relations firm Stellar Jay and BGR subcontractor Baker Donelson. Former Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.) terminated his Livingston Group‘s registration as a foreign agent of Azerbaijan last week, just three months after telling the US Justice Department that he was in the process of negotiating a contract with Baku, Foreign Lobby Report first reported Oct. 15. DLA Piper has also recently ended its work for Azerbaijan Railways CJSC (see new filings section below).

Already over the weekend, the Armenian diaspora bombarded the S-3 Group with more than a thousand emails with an identical message pressuring the Washington public affairs firm to stop representing a new client from Azerbaijan (Foreign Lobby Report was copied on the emails). The firm recently picked up a Baku-based company called Investment Corporation, LLC for $25,000 per month to “create and place earned and digital media to further diplomacy,” we first reported on Oct. 15. The diaspora letter, which you can read in its entirety here, describes S-3’s client as a “thinly veiled front for the Government of Azerbaijan through a proxy shell corporation.”

Other S-3 clients including accounting organization KPMG, French luxury brand LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton and General Motors are copied on the emails. The firm did not respond to a request for comment about whether it has any plans to abandon its Baku client. For more on the battle for influence in Washington between Azerbaijan and the Armenian-American diaspora, read our July 30 deep dive here.

New foreign lobbying filings (FARA)


Canada / Jamaica: Finn Partners has added firm partner Samantha Lacher to its accounts with Travel Alberta and the Jamaica Tourist Board.

Honduras: BGR Public Relations highlighted President Juan Orlando Hernandez‘s recent trip to Houston to review efforts to protect the Honduran community from COVID-19. Honduras is engaged in a public relations effort to fight back against allegations of corrupt mismanagement of the virus.


Azerbaijan: DLA Piper terminated its connection with Azerbaijan Railways CJSC effective Oct. 16. The firm registered as a foreign agent for the national state-owned rail transport operator in October 2019 with the goal of providing “legal advice and assistance relating to US sanctions on Iran that affect
the transport of oil, gas, and other petrochemical products that originate in third countries and that transit through Iran.” DLA Piper did not respond to a query about what had prompted the termination.

China: Boston public relations firm Racepoint Global disclosed $1.23 million in payments from Huawei during the six months through September. The firm has worked for the Chinese telecommunications giant since September 2018.

Singapore: The Singapore Tourism Board office in New York received $1.6 million from its parent organization to promote the country during the six months through September.


Italy: New lobbying filings from public relations firm S-3 shed some light on the nature of its work for the Embassy of Italy in Washington. The embassy hired the firm earlier this month for $12,500 per month for three months to “amplify” virtual and in-person events hosted by the embassy and help draw a “more qualified audience.” The new filings indicate the firm promoted an Oct. 14 Facebook Live panel on the “energy transition” after COVID-19 as well as the Week of Italian Language in the World, which runs from Oct. 19 through Oct. 25.

Middle East

Iraq (Kurdistan): The Kurdistan Regional Government’s US envoy, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, attended a private group dinner at the Trump International Hotel on Jan. 22 regarding “business opportunities in Kurdistan,” according to a new filing. She also met with Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy for International Affairs Matt Zais on Jan. 23 to discuss the political and economic situation in the semi-autonomous region. She met Zais again on June 23 along with Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy for Africa, Middle East, Europe & Eurasia Andrea Lockwood and Landon Derentz, the director of Middle Eastern and African Affairs at the Energy Department.

Turkey: Turkey-US Business Council (TAIK) lobby shop Mercury Public Affairs continues to highlight US states’ commercial ties to Turkey with new fact sheets about Georgia, Indiana and Ohio.

In other news

The fiancee of slain Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi and the advocacy organization that he inspired today filed a lawsuit in US federal court against Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and more than 20 alleged co-conspirators in Khashoggi‘s murder. Hatice Cengiz and Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) are represented by law firm Jenner & Block. Read our story about DAWN’s ties to other advocacy organizations here.

Lobbyists representing foreign governments have bundled nearly $2 million for President Donald Trump‘s re-election campaign, The Daily Beast reports.

Elliott Broidy, a former top fundraiser for President Donald Trump and the Republic Party, pleaded guilty today to illegal lobbying on behalf of fugitive financier Jho Low and agreed to forfeit $6.6 million. We first reported on the people underwriting Low’s $3.4 million influence campaign to escape justice for his alleged role in the multi-billion-dollar fraud at Malaysia’s 1MDB sovereign wealth fund here.