Asia, Business & trade, Media wars, New in Lobbying, US-China tensions

Huawei inks $3.5 million PR push as lobbying spending tumbles

Beleaguered Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei has signed $3.5 million in public relations contracts over the past two weeks even as it has put the brakes on its massive lobbying campaign amid political flux in Washington.

The company’s US subsidiary in Plano, Texas, Huawei Technologies USA, signed a $1.45 million contract with Ruder Finn at the end of October for “strategic counsel, media relations, analyst relations, data insights, content strategy and policy communications,” according to a new lobbying filing. The year-long contract was effective Nov. 1 and automatically renews for one year unless terminated by one of the parties.

Ruder Finn is replacing Burson Cohn & Wolfe (BCW) company Pivot Integrated Communications, which had a smaller $939,000 contract with Huawei that was up for renewal in September, according to a Huawei spokesperson. Pivot did not respond to a request for comment.

Huawei’s lobbying spending collapsed in 2020, dropping from more than $6 million in 2019 to less than $1 million in the first three quarters of 2020.

The filing comes just days after Huawei Technologies USA extended its contract with technology communications company Racepoint Global for $1.94 million through October 2021. The Boston-based firm has represented Huawei since October 2018 and disclosed almost $3.74 million in payments since then.

“As part of our annual agency review process, Huawei Technologies USA has renewed its contract with Racepoint Global (RPG) and added Ruder Finn to provide public relations counsel for 12 months beginning in November 2020,” Huawei Technologies USA said in a statement.

Contract amount
Type of work
Registered agents
Ruder Finn
$1.45 million
Public relations
Nov. 1, 2020 – Oct. 31, 2021
(automatically renews annually)
CEO Kathy Bloomgarden
Executive Vice President Maryam Ayromlou
Executive Vice President Robin Kim
Senior Vice President Guen Yi
Account supervisor Jenny Barrett
Account supervisor Jessica Savarese
Senior account executive Rebecca Baumgaertner
Assistant account executive Noah Dickter
Assistant account executive Peyton Francum
Racepoint Global
$1.94 million
Public relations
Nov. 1, 2020 – Oct. 31, 2021
Pivot Integrated Communications (BCW)
Public relations
Oct. 2019 – Sept. 2020
CEO James Cook
Executive Vice President Adam Goodman
Executive Vice President Jonathan Hendl
Executive Vice President Sharron Silvers
Senior Vice President Dean Mastrojohn
Vice President Eric Minuskin
Account executive Ariella Davmer
Account executive Kelly Delgado
Account executive Gabrielle Marino
Matthew Culbertson
Registered foreign agents for Huawei Technologies USA / US Department of Justice FARA unit

The PR focus comes even as Huawei has largely eased off its Washington lobbying in 2020 amid uncertainty over the country’s future political leadership.

As the Donald Trump administration pressed US allies to ban Huawei technology from their 5G networks and effectively banned the company from the US market in early 2019, the company went on a lobbying binge, hiring no fewer than five firms last year. Its high-priced lobbyists included Michael Esposito of Federal Advocates, whom the Washington Post described as a fabulist trading on fictitious ties to the Trump administration and other top Republicans.

But a review of federal disclosure records by Foreign Lobby Report shows that Huawei’s lobbying spending collapsed in 2020, dropping from more than $6 million in 2019 to less than $1 million in the first three quarters of 2020. That includes Huawei Technologies USA’s spending on in-house lobbying, which went from almost $3 million in 2019 to $450,000 so far this year.

2019 fees/spending
Q1 – Q3 2020 fees/spending
Registration date
Registered lobbyists (Q3 2020)
Huawei Technologies USA
$2.985 million
April 2012
Don Morrissey
In-house lobbying
Federal Advocates
$2.55 million
Aug. 2019
No filing since Q4 2019
Huawei Technologies USA
Squire Patton Boggs
August 2019
Jack Deschauer
Edward Newberry
Jeff Turner
Huawei Technologies USA
Steptoe & Johnson
April 2019
Richard Cunningham
Judy Wang
Huawei Technologies Co.
Jones Day
April 2019
No activity since Q4 2019
Huawei Technologies Co.
Sidley Austin
August 2019
Thomas Green
Mark Hopson
Huawei Technologies Co.
Active registered lobbyists for Huawei / Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA)

Meanwhile the company has filed multiple lawsuits, notably against a congressional law and federal regulations that restrict its ability to contract with the federal government.

“Huawei is under significant pressure to improve its global standing, due in large part to the Trump administration’s success in convincing several European countries to ban the company from their 5G networks,” said Craig Singleton, an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD).

“Beyond its existing lobbying efforts, and taking a page from TikTok‘s recent public messaging campaign, Huawei understands that the company will almost certainly remain under siege unless it can improve its image amongst policymakers and the general public alike,” Singleton said. “As a result of U.S. sanctions, Huawei’s earnings have taken a beating over the last year. If the company is going to survive, it needs to change the narrative. A public relations campaign is just one part of a much broader strategy which also relies heavily on lobbying and lawsuits.”