Latest filings

Qatar lobbies on F-35 sale to rival UAE; El Salvador’s Bukele ramps up US outreach; China news outlet registers as a foreign agent: Tuesday’s Daily Digest

Qatar lobbies on F-35 sale to rival UAE

Photo via jgorzynik / Shutterstock

The Donald Trump‘s proposed sale of F-35 jets to the United Arab Emirates is taking flak from another close US ally in the Middle East.

Even as Israel now says that it’s “very comfortable” with the proposed $10 billion sale of 50 of the advanced stealth fighters to the Gulf Arab state, UAE rival Qatar has been raising concerns behind the scenes. A new lobbying filing reveals that lobbyists with South Carolina-based Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough reached out to four key House Democrats in September and October regarding the proposed sale.

Former Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) is leading Nelson Mullins’ lobbying on Qatar.

He told Foreign Lobby Report that his discussions with lawmakers about the F-35 were aimed at gathering information about their position rather than lobbying them in any particular direction. Still, he made it clear that the Qataris share concerns expressed by some congressional members of both parties about the UAE’s military involvement in the conflicts in Yemen and Libya.

“It’s possible the Qataris would see the need to protect themselves if other neighbors got that kind of capability,” he said. “In a region where you’ve got some hot heads, they’re the responsible adult.”

Read the story here.

New lobbying filings


El Salvador: The government of President Nayib Bukele continues to expand its outreach to Washington in a bid to counter criticism from the country’s traditional parties and local media about the millennial businessman’s tough handling of gang violence and the COVID-19 epidemic. Foreign Advisory Services of Washington signed a one-year, $7,500-per-month contract on Nov. 25 with Invest El Salvador Inc. to “work to improve bilateral United States-El Salvador communications, promote foreign direct investment into El Salvador, and work with the Salvadorian diaspora.” The public affairs firm was incorporated the day before by Christopher Czerwinski, who also serves as director of International Policy at Washington investment research firm ACG Analytics. “Some of the good policies that [Bukele] has promoted, and actually some of the good results that he’s had — whether it’s decreasing crime, improving public safety, clamping down on corruption or just generally measures to bring the economy back — I don’t think that those get enough publicity,” Czerwinski said. “We’re part of changing that narrative and bringing some of those positive details to light.”

Invest El Salvador Inc. itself registered last month as a foreign agent for the government of El Salvador. The company is to be paid $65,000 per month from Nov. 1, 2020 through Oct. 31, 2021. Registered on the account are President and Chairman David Metzner, Executive Director Brian Dean, and Director/Treasurer Damian Matias Merlo. Separately, the presidential palace hired Washington strategic communications firm Rational PR in October for $65,000-a-month for six months. The firm is led by Patrick Dorton, a former aide to President Bill Clinton. Bukele said a previous contract with the Sonoran Policy Group, which is led by former Donald Trump campaign adviser Robert Stryk, would be cancelled.

El Salvador enlists former Clinton aide after Trumpworld hire comes under fire


China: California-based news outlet Xin Min International has newly registered as a Chinese foreign agent for work it has been conducting since 1994. The registration comes after the State Department in October designated US operations of its parent company the Xinmin Evening News as a foreign mission “substantially owned or effectively controlled” by the Chinese government. The company consists of CEO Guoshun Zhu, CFO Jing Yang and Secretary Ting Su. All three receive a salary in China.

China media arm spent more than $10 million on US newspaper advertorials

Marshall Islands: Former House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) is now lobbying for the government of the Marshall Islands via Akin Gump. Her activities will include “outreach to U.S. government officials including, but not limited to: nuclear legacy issues and
Compact of Free Association (COFA) renegotiation.” The Pacific island nation hopes to restore Medicaid eligibility for its tens of thousands of citizens in the United States as part of talks to renew COFA, which expires in 2023. The island is also challenging a US Department of Energy report that found that the Runit Dome repository for atomic waste produced during Cold War weapons testing is sound and that radioactive leakage into a nearby lagoon is not significant. Ros-Lehtinen previously registered as an agent for the embassies of Japan and the United Arab Emirates.

Marshall Islands leverage coronavirus crisis to push GOP on health coverage
Marshall Islands seizes Congress on Trump administration report that nuclear waste leak is safe

Middle East

Lebanon: New York financial adviser Carlos Abadi received $537,000 from the Association of Banks in Lebanon in the six months through November. He provided “financial advisory services in connection with the restructuring of the debt owed by the Government of Lebanon to members of the Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL).” Abadi is the general manager of DecisionBoundaries LLC, which is assisting French company Global Sovereign Advisory in advising
the ABL with respect to the restructuring of financial claims (bonds) that the ABL membership holds against the Republic of Lebanon.

Qatar: Washington marketing and PR company Proof Strategies was paid $185,000 by the Embassy in Qatar in the six months through November to notably help train embassy staff. Director of Media Relations Luci Manning, a registered agent on the Qatar account, left the company on Oct. 15.

Saudi Arabia: The Embassy of Saudi Arabia has not been paying its $50,000-per-month contract with the McKeon Group on time, according to a new lobbying filing. The firm founded by former House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) said it received no payments in the six months through November and that the embassy was “in arrears.” During the period the firm disclosed sending just four emails, all regarding the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), to the offices of Senate Armed Services Committee James Inhofe (R-Okla); House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.); and House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-Texas). The firm also said it reached out about the NDAA to the office of Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), although he is not on the Armed Services committee (the top Democrat is Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I.).

United Arab Emirates: Akin Gump associate Brad Powell stopped representing the Embassy of the UAE on April 10, according to a new lobbying filing.

In other news

Axios has a must-read investigation into a suspected Chinese spy’s targeting of California politicians, including Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.).

Teneo co-founder and former Bill Clinton chief counsel Doug Band has left the New York CEO advisory firm after a falling out with the former president, the Financial Times reports. Band is a registered foreign agent for futuristic Saudi megacity Neom and the United Arab Emirates’ Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation.