Americas, New in Lobbying

Former Black Caucus leader joins Latin America hawks on Dominican Republic contract

A former leader of the Congressional Black Caucus has joined a team of Latin America hawks working for the Dominican Republic, the second former member of Congress to lobby for the country’s new president.

Former Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), a senior adviser with Gray Global Advisors, has registered alongside Gray Global principal Ralph Nurnberger on the Washington firm’s $20,000-a-month subcontracting agreement with Vision Americas. The contract was effective Nov. 9 and runs through March 31, 2021.

This is Gray Global’s only current registration with the US Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (Gray Global previously worked for Morocco from 2014 to 2017). According to the lobbying filing, the firm “will communicate with [the] U.S. executive branch, members of Congress and their staff, and private sector organizations and companies in order to inform them of the interests of the Dominican Republic in order to promote positive outcomes for the country and its people.”

Vision Americas signed a $600,000 agreement for six months with the Caribbean nation’s Ministry of the Presidency last month as newly elected President Luis Abinader seeks to consolidate the close US partnership he has forged under the Donald Trump administration.

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Vision Americas is led by Roger Noriega, a former assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs and ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS) under President George W. Bush. Days after signing with the Dominican government, Noriega hired Coral Gables-based lobbying firm Western Hemisphere Strategies, which is led by former Republican congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Florida, brother of sitting Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), for $20,000 per month.

Edolphus Towns portrait.jpg
Edolphus Towns

Adding Gray Global Advisors to the line-up allows the Dominican Republic to broaden its reach among the competing power-centers in Washington.

The firm notably has close ties to the Congressional Black Caucus, a group of African-American lawmakers that enjoys particular influence on African and Caribbean issues. The group will make up almost a third of the Democratic Caucus in the next Congress and is enjoying unprecedented political clout.

Gray Global was cofounded by the late Rep. William Gray, a Pennsylvania Democrat who served in Congress from 1979 to 1991, and his son Justin Gray. The elder Gray was the first African American to serve as House Majority Whip, the third highest position in the majority party. His son now runs the firm.

Towns himself served from 1983 until 2013, notably chairing the powerful House oversight panel in 2009-2011. He served as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1991-1993.

Gray Global Advisors “will provide services related to [Vision America’s] activities to positively affect relations between the Dominican Republic and the United States,” according to its contract with Vision Americas. “Separately, other members of [Gray Global Advisors] will assist in contacting and meeting with private industry leaders to present commercial opportunities within the Dominican Republic.”

US-Dominican relations have deepened under Abinader after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned former President Danilo Medina against running for a constitutionally prohibited third term in a 2019 phone call. Medina ended up not running and Abinader won the July 5 election, ending 16 years of rule by the center-left Dominican Liberation Party.

Pompeo himself led the US delegation to Abinader’s inauguration on Aug. 16. Two days earlier, the Dominican Republic stood out as the only country at the UN Security Council to vote with the United States to indefinitely extend the UN arms embargo on Iran.