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Huawei swaps lobbying for PR; Quebec power company fights Maine environmentalists; China & Taiwan chipmakers get help: Monday’s Daily Digest

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.” This comes just days after Huawei Technologies USA extended its contract with technology communications company Racepoint Global for $1.94 million through October 2021.

Meanwhile Huawei has eased off its Washington lobbying in 2020 amid uncertainty over the country’s future political leadership: 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.

Read the story here.


Quebec power company prepares for Round 2 against Maine environmentalists

Canadian public utility Hydro-Quebec is getting ready for Round 2 in its fight against Maine environmentalists after surviving an electoral challenge to its proposed $1 billion power line carrying hydropower to New England.

The company’s US affiliate, H.Q. Energy Services (US), has signed up with Forbes Tate Partners (FTP) of Washington for another six months through April, while increasing the maximum amount authorized under the agreement to $449,000. That’s up from $329,000 under the five-month contract agreed to in July.

The contract extension was signed on Nov. 2, just days after opponents of the New England Clean Energy Connect project received permission to start collecting signatures for a referendum on the matter next year, when Mainers vote for governor.

Read the story here.


New lobbying filings

Americas

Canada (Alberta): The energy-rich province of Alberta has renewed its contract with Canadian lobby shop Crestview Strategy for $180,000 for the six months starting Oct. 1. “You have asked us to assist you with securing meetings with key Members of Congress and their senior officials over the next three months to start,”  Crestview’s managing director for the US Maryscott Greenwood wrote to Alberta’s senior representative to the US, James Rajotte on Oct. 1.” We understand that the core issues of importance to the Province include energy and environmental policy: trade issues including food and agriculture; infrastructure and ‘Buy American’ proposals; and investment issues.” Crestview has been representing Alberta since August.

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Asia

Afghanistan: Wise Capital Strategy reported 225,500 in payments from the Afghanistan-U.S. Democratic Peace and Prosperity Council in the six months through September. During that period the firm in turn paid $25,000 in consulting fees to Duncap Strategies of Mississippi. In August and September the firm held virtual meetings with Reps. Michael Guest (R-Miss.) and John Curtis (R-Utah). Vice President Paris Pope left the firm and the account on May 8.

The Afghan group registered as a nonprofit in Delaware in November 2019. Its lobbying registration with the Department of Justice describes its mission as working to “encourage the U.S. to adopt legislation, military assistance, and foreign policy that will promote Afghan national security and strong U.S.-Afghanistan strategic ties, including anti-terrorism efforts.” The group is funded by Afghan businessman Mohammad Gul Raoufi, who is providing a $410,000 budget for 2020, and headed by executive director Martin Rahmani in Washington. Three Afghan lawmakers sit on its board of advisers: Mir Haider AfzalyNaheed Farid and Haji Ajmal Rahmani.

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Azerbaijan: Baker Donelson received $108,000 from the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan via BGR Government Affairs in the six months through September. During that time lobbyists for the firm emailed State and Foreign Operations Appropriations clerks Steve Marchese (Democrats) and Susan Adams (Republicans) in the House and Paul Grove (Republicans) in the Senate amid a fight over US funding for demining in the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

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China: Washington advocacy firm Capitol Counsel has registered as a subcontractor to law firm Akin Gump on its account for the Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation, China’s largest chipmaker. The firm will lobby on “eligibility of company to import U.S.-origin semiconductor-related goods under U.S. export control laws.” Registered on the account are Capitol Counsel partners Drew Goesl, a former chief of staff to ex-Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.) and communications director for ex-Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.); Martin Gold, a former counsel to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.); and Shannon Finley, a former senior adviser to former Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.). Headquartered in Shanghai, the partially state-owned company is the largest foundry in China. Its customers include Qualcomm and Broadcom. The US Commerce Department sent a Sept. 25 letter to US companies warning them that exports to SMIC posed an “unacceptable risk of diversion to a military end use.”

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Malaysia: Australian PR firm Wells Haslem Mayhew Strategic Public Affairs was paid $61,000 in the six months through October for work on behalf of fugitive financier Jho Low. The firm notably “contacted media outlets and journalists in the United States seeking corrections to news articles about Mr. Taek Low
published on websites and/or in physical publications (magazines and newspapers).” Low is accused of embezzling $4.5 billion from Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.

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Pakistan: Abdullah Riar has registered with the US Department of Justice as secretary of PTI USA, the US chapter of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan‘s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party.

Taiwan: The US subsidiary of Taiwanese chipmaker MediaTek has hired the Duberstein Group to lobby on “trade, export controls, foreign direct product rules, and semiconductor policy and incentives for domestic semiconductor production.” The move follows an August Commerce Department order that dealt a severe blow to the ability of MediaTek and other makers of off-the-shelf microprocessors to Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.

The firm’s founder, Kenneth Duberstein, former White House chief of staff for President Ronald Reagan, registered on the account along with four others:

  • Vice President Benjamin Howard, a former deputy assistant for legislative affairs to President Donald Trump;
  • Partner Brian Griffin, a former senior adviser to former Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.);
  • Partner David Schiappa, who served as Republican Secretary from 2001 until his retirement in 2013, including under current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.); and
  • Partner Anne Wall, a former floor director for Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
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Europe

Romania: A Romanian energy trade group that advocates for “fair gas price[s] and increased transparency in the energy market of Romania” has hired former Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham to “seek participation of US government officials in the events/activities of the US-Romania Commercial Energy Dialogue. Abraham’s firm, The Abraham Group, has in turn hired Blank Rome Government Relations as a subcontractor on the account with Asociatia Energia Inteligenta. Last month Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette and Romania’s Minister of Economy, Energy and Business Development Virgil Popescu signed a draft agreement to cooperate on the expansion and modernization of Romania’s civil nuclear power program.

Middle East

Qatar: The Embassy of Qatar has extended its contract with Washington public relations firm Proof Strategies through June 2021. Starting Nov. 1 the firm is to be paid a maximum of $71,175 per month (up from $30,000 per month previously), plus $20,000 per month for media buys and advertising and $2,450 per month for digital and media monitoring tools and other expenses. The firm began working for the embassy in May. Registered as foreign agents on the account are General Manager & Senior Vice President Mara Mein Carter, Director of Strategy Chris Burright and Senior Account Director Henri Vies. Media relations director Luci Manning was deregistered from the account on Oct. 27.

Separately, communications consultant Rebecca Diaz-Bonilla‘s Lumen8 Advisors has been helping the Embassy of Qatar with “planning and preparations regarding delivery of the World Cup in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis” since April 1, according to a new lobbying filing. The firm is paid $1,000 an hour for the services, according to a verbal agreement with the embassy. Lumen8 Advisors separately signed a three-year contract with the embassy in March 2018, also for $1,000 per hour, to provide “media and communication strategy and consulting services to government spokespersons.”

Saudi Arabia: Qorvis has spun off as a legally distinct entity from MLSGroup Americas and taken all the firm’s foreign lobbying clients, according to a new lobbying filing. These include the Mecca-based Muslim World League, which paid the firm $800,000 in the six months through September for public relations work. The firm also reported PR work on behalf of its other Saudi clients, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the King Salman Humanitarian Aid & Relief Centre as well as the Embassy of Yemen, but no payments. During the period account executive Jared Franz registered as a foreign agent for the Yemen embassy and the Muslim World League (he was already registered for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia).

United Arab Emirates: FTI Consulting terminated its registration for the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority as of Oct. 31. The global business advisory firm first registered as a foreign agent for the authority for $50,000 per month in July 2018 and had just extended its communications consulting agreement with the authority until March 2023.


In other news

A spokeswoman for Greenberg Traurig confirms Politico’s scoop that it has stopped representing the Republic of Turkey as of the end of October but said it was for a confluence of reasons. Politico reported that the termination was triggered by pressure from Armenian-American activists angered over Turkey’s support for Azerbaijan, Armenia’s foe in the ongoing fight over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. The firm had represented the country since 2014 and in January signed a $1.54 million contract through the end of the year.

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