Latest filings

Advocacy group lines up Dem lawmakers behind Saudi G20 boycott; State Department designates more Chinese outlets; Russian aircraft lobbying falls through: Thursday’s Daily Digest

Advocacy campaign to boycott G20 in Saudi Arabia gains congressional support

The human rights campaign to boycott the G20 reached a new level on Wednesday when 45 House Democrats signed on to a letter urging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to skip next month’s summit unless Saudi Arabia releases jailed dissidents, ends its military campaign in Yemen and holds to account top officials responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The letter was spearheaded by Freedom Forward, an advocacy organization headed by Sunjeev Bery, the former advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International. The group also helped organize a news conference over Zoom with Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) to announce the letter. Also on the call was Bethany Alhaidari, an American citizen fighting her Saudi husband for custody of their daughter and a registered lobbyist for Freedom Forward.

The call coincided with the opening day of the virtual Women 20 (W20) global summit. Freedom Forward is one of several groups that has pressured the transnational network of delegates representing female activists and business leaders to skip the summit. Freedom Forward and allied groups have previously helped secure promises from mayors of major cities to skip the summit: Bill de Blasio of New York, Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, Anne Hidalgo of Paris and Sadiq Khan of London.

The Saudis have launched their own public relations push to boost the historic summit, the first to be held in the Middle East. Chicago-based public relations Edelman has a $6 million contract to promote the G20’s B20 business summit, which starts next Monday.

Read our story about Freedom Forward’s lobbying registration here.

State Department designates more Chinese outlets

The State Department has designated six more Chinese government-run media outlets as “foreign missions,” forcing them to register their employees and US properties with the US government. They are: Yicai Global, Jiefang Daily, Xinmin Evening News, Social Sciences in China Press, Beijing Review and Economic Daily. The move follows similar actions against several other Chinese outlets earlier this year (see chart below) as the Donald Trump administration cracks down on what it deems to be propaganda from the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

“The decision to designate these entities does not place any restrictions on what these organizations may publish in the United States,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement. “It simply recognizes them for what they are – PRC-controlled propaganda outlets.”

The State Department designations are different from Justice Department orders to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which require registrants to disclose their foreign funding, lobbying contacts and media outreach every six months.

Oct. 21, 2020
The US State Department designates six Chinese media outlets as “foreign missions”: Yicai Global, Jiefang Daily, Xinmin Evening News, Social Sciences in China Press, Beijing Review and Economic Daily.
Sept. 14, 2020
The US Department of Justice requires Al Jazeera‘s online news channel AJ+ to register as a foreign agent of the government of Qatar. AJ+ has yet to do so.
Sept. 14, 2020
Washington production company Ghebi registers as a foreign agent of Russia’s state-run Rossiya Segodnya news agency.
June 22, 2020
The US Department of State designates four Chinese media outlets as “foreign missions.” They are : China Central TelevisionChina News Service, the People’s Daily, and the Global Times
May 21, 2020
The China Daily Distribution Corp. discloses for the first time how much it spends to publish the Chinese Communist Party’s China Daily alongside US newspapers.
March 12, 2020
The US branch of Turkish public broadcaster TRT (Turkish Radio and Television Corporation) registers as a foreign agent of TRT. The DOJ determined that it had an obligation to do so back in August 2019.
Feb. 24, 2020
The US Department of State designates five Chinese media outlets as “foreign missions.” They are : Xinhua; China Global Television Network (CGTN); China Radio International; China Daily Distribution Corporation; and Hai Tian Development USA.
June 2019
Florida-based RM Broadcasting, which broadcasts Sputnik radio in the United States, registers as a foreign agent of Rossiya Segodnya after losing a lawsuit against the Department of Justice. The DOJ initially requested that RM register in June 2018.
Feb. 2019
CGTN America in Washington registers as a foreign agent of China’s CCTV. The Department of Justice required it to do so in December 2018. Xinhua has also been asked to register but has not done so, according to the Wall Street Journal.
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May 2018
Virginia-based content distributor MHz registers as a foreign agent of Germany’s DW (Deutsche Welle) and France’s FMM (France Medias Monde) “out of an abundance of caution.”
Feb.  2018
Washington-based RIA Global registers as a foreign agent of Rossiya Segodnya after receiving a request to do so from the DOJ in January.
Dec.  2017
RTTV America, which produces content for Russia’s RT and TV-Novosti, registers as a foreign agent of ANO TV-Novosti (RT’s parent company) after receiving a request in August.
Nov. 2017
Washington production company T&R registers as a foreign agent of Russia’s ANO TV-Novosti after DOJ requested it do so in August.
Timeline of recent foreign media registrations and designations / Foreign Lobby Report

New foreign lobbying filings (FARA)


Japan: The Embassy of Japan in Washington paid Prime Policy Group $165,000 in the six months through September to provide “strategic advice and counsel on public policy issues, political advice and counsel, and [to] monitor Congress and the Administration.” The firm did not report any political contacts during the period.

The Houston office of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) received $473,000 from its parent in Tokyo during the six months through September. During the period Kenji Okimoto replaced Haoto Nakagawa as director for offshore and maritime industries.



Aryan Zandieh-Vakili

The Chicago office of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia’s NRW.INVEST economic development agency received $400,000 from the state’s Ministry of Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitalization and Energy in the six months through September. The Chicago office in turn paid $3,775 to participate in the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ virtual trade show in July.

During the period Aryan Zandieh-Vakili took over as CEO of the Chicago office. He previously led the North American office of the German state of Niedersachsen and served as Head of Sales at the US subsidiary of Deutsche Messe AG. Managing Director Ginta Rose Rubin stepped down Aug. 31, while Helena Gittelman assumed the post of business development manager on Aug. 17.

Russia: Attorney Mark Thomas Stopa of Massachusetts has terminated his lobbying registration on behalf of Russia’s sanctioned United Aircraft Corporation after the two parties failed to agree on contract terms. Stopa, the founder of Stopa & Associates in Foxboro, registered with the Department of Justice in early April. He had been expected to provide “lobbying, promotion, perception management, public relations, economic development, and preparation or dissemination of informational materials in furtherance of the corporate activities of the PJSC United Aircraft Corporation relating to its development, construction, testing and maintenance support, as well as service support, of military and civil aircraft” starting May 1. But a new filing shows the registration was terminated June 30 “before engaging in any activities,” with no money changing hands. “Nothing came to fruition,” Stopa told Foreign Lobby Report. United Aircraft Corporation is the mostly state-owned parent of major Russian aircraft manufacturers including Sukhoi, MiG and Irkut. US sanctions imposed under the Donald Trump administration have cut the company off from foreign suppliers and threatened plans to produce Russia’s first post-Soviet mainline commercial aircraft, Russian media reported last year.

Russia: Matthew Jay Lauer has not received any payments for work on behalf of Russian state development corporation Vnesheconombank (VEB) after the COVID-19 pandemic interfered with lobbying activities. Lauer, an executive vice-president at Qorvis/MSLGroup, independently registered as a foreign agent for Russia’s International Centre for Legal Protection back in October 2019 to help the center protect its client VEB from new potential US sanctions (Lauer listed his address as Geneva, where he also serves as global head of communications and strategy for Mercuria Energy Trading). Lauer was to be paid via Washington firm Geopolitical Solutions, which signed a year-long, $750,000 contract with the International Centre for Legal Protection last October. Former Qorvis executive Grace Fenstermaker is handling the account.

In his latest filing covering the six months through October, Lauer told the US Justice Department that he provided advice to the International Centre for Legal Protection and VEB between May 1 and May 15 on transparency and COVID-19 prevention but that he had not been paid by Geopolitical Solutions because “the contract was suspended due to COVID restrictions.” His activities included distributing a press release from Geopolitical Solutions touting VEB’s plans to finance the construction of 25 waste-to-energy plants as part of plans to boost the country’s “green economy.” The Russian corporation retained two other firms last year amid fears of new sanctions, both of which have since stopped their activities. New York law firm White & Case ended its work for VEB on Feb. 19 and former Rep. John Sweeney (R-N.Y.) followed suit in May (along with his subcontractor Georgetown Strategies), as we first reported here and here.

Middle East

Morocco: Fleischman Hillard has added Benjamin Taylor Svehlak of Dallas to its account with Moroccan phosphate mining giant OCP Group. Svehlak is a senior account executive at VOX Global, a partner agency of Fleischman Hillard under the umbrella of parent company Omnicom. That brings to 10 the number of people registered as foreign agents for the 94% state-owned company and its US affiliate as they battle a US investigation into allegations of unfair state subsidies. For more about what’s fueling the lobbying blitz by OCP and Morocco, read our Oct. 14 story.

Contract amount
Type of work
Registered agents
$350,000 max.
Public relations
Oct. 6, 2020 – March 31, 2021
SVP and partner Anthony Zagora
Account supervisor Spencer Girouard
VP Tayler Tchoukaleff
Lizanne Sadlier (Partner at subcontractor VOX Global)
Bailey Witt (SVP at VOX Global)
Erin Evenson (Account supervisor at Vox Global)
Benjamin Svehlak (Sr. account executive at Vox Global)
OCP Group
Covington & Burling
Hourly rates
Legal / lobbying
Started Oct. 7
Partner Bruce Wilson
OCP Group
Cornerstone Government Affairs
Oct. 1, 2020 – Sept. 30, 2021
CCO Communications
$30,000/month max.
Public relations
Started Aug. 1
Registered foreign agents for OCP SA and OCP North America / US Department of Justice FARA unit


San Francisco-based nonprofit environmental law organization Earthjustice this week terminated the foreign agent registrations of six employees and consultants who helped draft a petition last year on behalf of international youth activists calling on the United Nations and member states to take action on climate change and related environmental issues. The organization also conducted a public relations campaign to increase awareness of these issues. They are: Employees Jill Fitzsimmons, Zarah Patriana, Bala Sivaraman and Siham Zniber; and consultants Gabe Brauer and Sarah Brenner.

In other news

Cornell University failed to properly disclose more than $1.2 billion in foreign funding from sources that include the government of Qatar and Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, the Wall Street Journal concluded after combing through a new US Education Department compliance report.

The Republican Jewish Coalition, a pro-Israel advocacy group, is the biggest contributor to the re-election campaign of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), The Forward reports.