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Report lays bare Japan’s massive influence operation; Serbia Chamber signs $400,000 deal; Morocco mining giant gains 9 more lobbyists: Thursday’s Daily Digest

Inside Japan’s $32 million lobbying spree and its impact on US defense

A new report released today sheds light on Japan’s massive lobbying spending in Washington and its impact on US defense policies amid rising tensions with China.

An astounding 51 firms representing Japanese interests were paid $32 million in 2019, according to the analysis by the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the left-leaning Center for International Policy (CIP). The report offers a rare deep dive into the priorities of a close US ally whose lobbying perennially tops the spending charts but largely escapes scrutiny amid a focus on US foes and more controversial partners in the Middle East.

Read more on the report’s findings here.



Marshall Islands: Maryland lawyer Gordon Christopher Benjamin submitted two applications for technical assistance grants for the Kili/Bikini/Ejit Local Government Council in the six months through October, according to his latest lobbying disclosure. He did not receive any payments during the period but has had a $250,000-a-year contract with the council since 2017. The US Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs announced in September that it had awarded $1.1 million in grant funding to support the local government’s efforts to build a sea wall on Ejit Island, Majuro Atoll, and provide equipment and supplies for the health clinic on Kili Island.


Serbia: The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia has renewed its contract with Yorktown Solutions for outreach to government officials and relevant private sector organizations for a second year. The new contract is worth $400,000, down from $600,000 originally. It was signed by chamber president Marko Cadez and Yorktown president Daniel Vajdich, a former Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffer and adviser to the presidential campaigns of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), then-Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisc.) and then-Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Utah). The contract was effective Nov. 9 and runs through Nov. 8, 2021. Vajdich is registered as a foreign agent on the contract along with firm vice-president Jonathan Gregory. The renewal comes as the Donald Trump administration helped broker closer economic ties between Serbia and Kosovo in September.

According to the contract, Yorktown “will arrange roadshows, conferences, speaking engagements, interviews and other forms of promotional events and platforms for CCIS and its member companies in Washington, D.C, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and other key markets in the United States for the purposes of attracting U.S. foreign direct investment to Serbia, exploring opportunities for Serbian investment in the United States, and fostering expanded engagement between key commercial actors in both countries.” Yorktown also lobbies for the Ukrainian gas industry against Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline to western Europe.

Middle East

Morocco: Cornerstone Government Affairs has registered nine more people to its new account with the US subsidiary of Moroccan phosphate mining giant OCP, bringing the total to 11.

They are:

OPC has launched a lobbying and public relations blitz as it faces the threat of US tariffs amid accusations of unfair government subsidies from Tampa-based rival the Mosaic Company. Here is the current state of play of OCP’s influence operations:

Contract amount
Type of work
Registered agents
OCP North America
Registered Oct. 5
CEO Kevin McNamara
Dir. of Corp. Engagement Mehdi El Khatib al-Mahfoudi
Vice-President Kevin Kimm
Legal counsel Ali Mernissi
OCP Group
$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
Principal and managing director Michael Smith
Principal and director David Adelman
Principal and director Louie Perry 
Principal and director Thomas Hunt Shipman
Principal William Cousineau
Principal John Crumbliss
Principal Matthew Hinch
Principal Martin Hubert
Principal Christopher Sarley
Vice President and counsel Alice Gomez
Associate Morgan McCord
DiNino Associates
(Cornerstone subcontractor)
Nov. 11 – Sept. 30, 2021
President Paul DiNino
CCO Communications
$30,000/month max.
Public relations
Started Aug. 1
Registered foreign agents for OCP Group and OCP North America / US Department of Justice FARA unit
Mining giant leads Moroccan lobbying blitz

Saudi Arabia: The Saudi Embassy in Washington paid Richard Hohlt and his Hohlt Group Global $480,000 in the six months through October. Hohlt “advises embassy staff on public affairs, and technical legislative interpretation, strategy, and analysis,” according to his latest disclosure with the Department of Justice, but does not lobby.