- Huawei dominates $6 million in new foreign influence business in November
- Ethiopian-Americans step up activism as country descends into violence
- Trump-connected Ballard lobbies Treasury on Zimbabwe sanctions
- Lobbyists for Canada’s Saskatchewan join inter-agency call on critical minerals
- Sidley Austin registers for UK trade deal team
- Saudis fret over Intelligence provisions in Omnibus
Huawei dominates $6 million in new foreign influence business in November
Foreign nations and companies disclosed 20 new lobbying and public relations contracts worth $6 million in November as they prepare for the Joe Biden era.
The new activity was dominated by Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, whose US affiliate Huawei Technologies USA signed a yearlong, $1.45 million contract with PR company Ruder Finn even as its lobbying spending collapsed in 2020.
A handful of smaller contracts have drawn outsized attention in Washington. Chief among them is the Egyptian embassy’s hiring of former chief of staff to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Nadeam Elshami and former House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) to help prepare for the departure of President Donald Trump, who famously called Egypt’s leader “my favorite dictator.”
Meanwhile former Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and John Breaux (D-La.) are lobbying for the Government of Alberta, part-owner of the cross-border Keystone XL oil pipeline that Biden vowed to block during the campaign.
Read the story and check out our complete graphic here.
Podcast: Ethiopian-Americans step up activism as country descends into violence
Ethiopian-American activist Seenaa Jimjimo and her Virginia-based Oromo Legacy Leadership & Advocacy Association have hired lobbyists for the first time to push for sanctions against members of the Ethiopian security forces responsible for extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses.
Jimjimo spoke about her activism and the situation in Ethiopia in the latest episode of The Influencers, the podcast Foreign Policy Report co-hosts with Richard Levick of the LEVICK communications agency.
Read the story here.
New lobbying filings
Zimbabwe: Ballard Partners managing partner Sylvester Lukis held a phone call with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin‘s deputy chief of staff Zachary McEntee on Sept. 15 regarding US-Zimbabwe relations, according to a new lobbying disclosure. He also exchanged e-mails that month with Geoffrey Okamoto, a former US Treasury official now serving as First Deputy Managing Director at the International Monetary Fund. The firm founded by President Donald Trump‘s former Florida lobbyist Brian Ballard signed a $500,000-a-year contract in February 2019 with Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help remove sanctions imposed under former ruler Robert Mugabe. Mercury Public Affairs is also lobbying on the same issue. Ballard Partners did not disclose any payments from the country in the six months through October. Ballard partner James Rubin, a former Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs under President Bill Clinton, was terminated as a foreign agent on the account on June 1.
Canada: The Canadian province of Saskatchewan paid Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough $190,000 in the six months through October, while the Crown Investment Corp of Saskatchewan paid $36,000. In September the firm participated in a phone call with multiple US officials from several different agencies regarding the Saskatchewan Rare Earth Processing Facility and the the Canada-US Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals. The plan, which was finalized in January 2020, aims to facilitate the development of secure supply chains for critical minerals that are key to strategic industries such as defense, aerospace and communications and push back against the sector’s domination by China. US officials on the call included:
- Department of State: Pamela Fierst-Walsh (senior adviser on conflict minerals); Dan Kachur (Office of Canadian Affairs); Kristen Gruizenga (Political/Economic Officer at the US consulate in Calgary); and Mark Pituch (Bureau of Energy Resources);
- Department of Interior: Thomas Crafford (Mineral Resources Program coordinator); Joseph Gambogi (mineral commodity specialist); Kathy Benedetto (Bureau of Land Management senior advisor);
- Department of Commerce: Kyle Wells (International Trade Specialist);
- Department of Energy: Michael McEleney (senior policy advisor for International Affairs); Traci Rodosta (program manager for critical minerals and coal to products); Kathleen Deutsch (senior adviser, Office of American Affairs);
- Department of Defense: Bryan Gabriel (Chief of Strategic Minerals Planning);
- Export-Import Bank: Jamal Ware (National Security Advisor).
Dominican Republic: Ballard Partners reported $225,000 from the government of the Dominican Republic in the six months through October. A new lobbying filing shows Managing Partner Sylvester Lukis emailed dozens of staffers on the House and Senate foreign affairs panels in July to discuss bilateral relations, while firm founder and former Donald Trump Florida lobbyist Brian Ballard personally lobbied the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to give the Caribbean country priority access to the COVID-19 therapeutic remdesivir. Ballard has represented the Dominican Republic since 2017. Ballard partner James Rubin, a former Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs under President Bill Clinton, was terminated as a foreign agent on the account on June 1. Partners Rebecca Benn and Katherine San Pedro also terminated their registrations with the DR on May 1.
Armenia: Former Senate Majority Leader and 1996 presidential candidate Bob Dole (R-Kansas) reached out to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sept. 24 to discuss the US strategic partnership with Armenia in advance of planned diplomatic talks the following month, according to a new lobbying filing from his law firm, Alston Bird. Dole also reached out to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman James Risch (R-Idaho) and panel members Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) as well as Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, regarding the humanitarian impacts of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh. During the same period, Dole’s chief of staff at the firm Pia Pyle reached out to Risch, Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff and staff for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). The Embassy of Armenia hired the firm for one month for $10,000 on Sept. 15 ahead of October cease-fire talks in Washington between the foreign ministers of the two countries.
Cambodia: PacRim Bridges, the Washington State firm started by State Sen. Doug Ericksen and former State Rep. Jay Rodne, reported no political activities or payments on behalf of the government of Cambodia in the six months through October due to the COVID-19 epidemic. The firm signed a $500,000-a-year contract with the authoritarian country last year to improve relations with the US, drawing criticism from human rights groups and exiled Cambodian living in the state.
South Korea: The Embassy of South Korea paid Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough $150,000 in the six months through October. That month lobbyists for the firm repeatedly emailed the national security adviser for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Omri Ceren, to try to schedule a call with the senator. Cruz, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), was a main supporter of the Donald Trump administration’s decision to relist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism in 2017, which Seoul officially welcomed. Lobbyists for the firm also sought to call or meet with fellow SFRC member David Perdue (R-Georgia) as well as with Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.).
Japan: Former Republican presidential speech writer C. Landon Parvin took in $76,400 from the Embassy of Japan for remarks and speeches during the six months through November.
Japan: The Consulate of Japan in Boston paid The Policy Agency of Portsmouth, New Hampshire $5,000 in the six months through October for political advice and helping set up meetings with New England officials. Firm owner Anne Smith Caparso, a former deputy director of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs, is the only registered agent on the account.
Germany: New York-based Deutsche Telekom, Inc. received $2.78 million from its parent in Germany during the six months through October. Officials with the company attended panels with US officials during the period including Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai and the Congressional Study Group on Germany.
Poland: The Polish Chamber of Commerce in the United States spent $8,500 in the six months through October for activities on behalf of the Polish Investment & Trade Agency. These include reaching out to supportive businesses and trade associations; conducting briefings, meetings and events; and working with government officials and policy-makers to facilitate business investments in Poland or in the United States.
United Kingdom: Chicago-based Sidley Austin has officially registered as a foreign agent for its role on the team of law firms working to help the United Kingdom’s Department for International Trade negotiate a US free trade agreement following the country’s decision to leave the European Union. The firm is one of five US law firms working as subcontractors to London-based Linklaters on the $7.5 million account. Previous filings spelled out the expected focus of each firm:
Qatar: Ballard Partners reported $415,000 from the Embassy of Qatar during the six months through October. During that time Managing Partner Sylvester Lukis emailed dozens of staffers on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and held a Sept. 29 phone call with Alexander Gray, the deputy director for the Defense Industrial Base at the National Security Council.
Saudi Arabia: A new filing by lobbying firm Off Hill Strategies reveals that the Saudi Embassy is concerned about the massive end-of-the-year legislative package that Congress is hoping to vote on this week. The firm led by former Heritage Foundation lobbyist Tripp Baird and his wife Jennifer Baird disclosed that it was “gathering information regarding the end-of-year omnibus legislation” as part of a short-term, $25,000-a-month contract with the embassy that ends right before Inauguration Day. Among potential concerns for the Saudis is the possible inclusion of annual intelligence legislation in the package. This summer the House Intelligence Committee passed an Intelligence Authorization Act from committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) that contains no fewer than seven provisions related to Saudi Arabia that notably push for greater transparency on the murder of dissident Jamal Khashoggi and restrict intelligence sharing for air strikes by the Saudi-led Arab coalition battling the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen. The bill also seeks a report by the Director of National Intelligence on US influence operations by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. The Senate version of the bill from Acting Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) by contrast doesn’t mention Saudi Arabia at all.
Turkey: The Embassy of Turkey paid Lydia Borland‘s LB International Solutions $135,000 in the six months through September. During that period she notably texted with House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) member Steve Watkins (R-Kansas) and Congressional Turkey Caucus members Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) and Guy Reschenthaler (R-Penn.) regarding US-Turkey relations. She also met with Omar Hossino, the foreign policy adviser to the Republican Study Committee and held a videoconference with staff for HFAC member Steve Chabot (R-Ohio). Borland is a former Washington representative for the Turkey-U.S. Business Council (TAIK) and former deputy executive director of the U.S.-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce.