Latest filings

New York PR firm reps German museum in Nazi confiscation litigation; Qatar asks Congress to weigh in on detained Saudi prince; COVID-19 shuts down Kurdish lobbying: Wednesday’s Daily Digest

New lobbying registrations

Asia

Armenia/Azerbaijan: The US office of the self-declared Nagorno Karabakh Republic (also called Artsakh) received $66,000 from the majority-Armenian enclave inside Azerbaijan during the six months through November. In July the office forwarded a thank you letter from Foreign Minister Masis Mayilian to Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Jim Himes (D-Conn.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and TJ Cox (D-Calif.). In October and November the office held Zoom calls with Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), co-chairs of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, to discuss “the aggression by Azerbaijan against Artsakh.” The office also participated in events with the Embassy of Armenia and US clergy, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Institute of World Politics, In Defense of Christians, the  Armenian General Benevolent Union, the USC Institute of Armenian Studies and the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research.

Meanwhile Azerbaijan lobby firm BGR distributed a Dec. 7 letter from Ambassador Elin Suleymanov to members of the House and Senate applauding the Nov. 10 cease-fire agreement in Nagorno-Karabakh that cemented Azerbaijan’s military victory in the conflict. The letter invites the US to play a “very positive role” in “reconciliation, economic development and normalization” between the two parties. It also asserts that the US provision of millions of aid for demining assistance for Nagorno-Karabakh has been a failure, citing reports that retreating Armenia forces planted mines in areas reclaimed by Azerbaijan.

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Hong Kong: The Hong Kong Trade Development Council paid Washington law firm Venable $107,500 during the six months through October for advice and counsel regarding the bilateral issues in the economic relationship between Hong Kong and the U.S. Venable only disclosed one lobbying activity during the period: An Oct. 29 phone call between Venable senior policy adviser Richard Hegg and staffers for Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) regarding “travel, tourism and COVID response as impacting Hong Kong and the U.S.”. Also lobbying for the council are Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & FeldBGR GroupJacobs Global Trade & Compliance and Legislative Strategies.

Don’t miss our June 1 interview with the council’s regional director for the Americas, Ralph Chow, about the group’s priorities as the Donald Trump administration rolls back the special relationship between the US and Hong Kong as China cements its control over the territory.

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South Korea: The Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA)’s seven offices across the United States received more than $5 million from Seoul headquarters in the six months through November:

  • KOTRA Los Angeles: $2.13 million;
  • KOTRA New York: $1.13 million;
  • KOTRA Chicago: $697,000;
  • KOTRA Silicon Valley: $476,000;
  • KOTRA Dallas: $333,000;
  • KOTRA Detroit: $206,000; and
  • KOTRA Washington: $170,000.

During the period the offices registered eight new foreign agents with the US Department of Justice:

  • Deputy Director General Eun Joo Chung, KOTRA Los Angeles;
  • Deputy Director Dong Hyun Kho, KOTRA Los Angeles;
  • General Manager Chulmin Kim, KOTRA Los Angeles;
  • Director General Choongsik Jang, KOTRA Detroit;
  • Director General Yungsun Lee, KOTRA Chicago;
  • Director Seok Hwan Lee, KOTRA Chicago;
  • Manager Jiwon Seo, KOTRA Silicon Valley; and
  • Director Youngtae Kim, Kotra Washington.

Europe

Germany: New York PR firm KARV Communications has just disclosed work dating back to 2015 for Germany’s Stiftung Pressischer Kulturbesitz (SPK), which KARV lobbying filings describe as a “Smithsonian-like consortium of museums, archives, and research institutions in Berlin, Germany.” KARV is working with law firm Wiggin and Dana in representing the SPK in litigation concerning allegations that one of its collections of medieval reliquaries was sold by Jewish art dealers to Nazi leaders under duress in the 1930s. The firm has been paid $632,000 for the work since May 2015.

The disclosure comes just as the Supreme Court heard arguments this week from Wiggin and Dana lawyer Jonathan Freiman that the SPK is protected from having to provide restitution under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. Heirs to the art dealers argue that the sale is covered by the expropriation exception to the act, which lets U.S. courts hear claims against foreign sovereigns when “rights in property taken in violation of international law” are at issue. The belated disclosure of KARV’s PR work in the case comes as US lobbying and public relations firms continue to register years-old contracts with foreign entities as the Department of Justice takes a more aggressive stance on what constitutes foreign influence operations.

Middle East

Qatar: The Embassy of Qatar paid Washington law firm Venable $270,000 during the six months through October, according to a new lobbying filing. During that time former Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), now a partner at the firm, met with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and committee members Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) and Collin Allred (D-Texas) to discuss the Saudi-UAE embargo of Qatar and congressional concerns with arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Stupak also texted Reps. Jim Panetta (D-Calif.) and Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) in July about the “disappearance” of former Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. The former intelligence chief was once next in line to the throne and is seen as a potential rival to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He was arrested in March 2020 for an alleged coup attempt along with Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, a brother of King Salman. Josh Finestone, another lobbyist on the account, asked his former boss Tom Graves (R-Ga.) as well as Reps. Michael Guest (R-Miss.) and Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) to post on social media about bin Nayef’s case. In October, a group of British members of Parliament and lawyers asked to visit the country to check on the missing prince. And last week, lawyers for the prince said a new social media campaign accusing him of plotting a coup could put his life at risk.

Stupak also spoke by phone with Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), about the congressional reaction to the UAE’s diplomatic recognition of Israel. Lobbyists for the firm also emailed dozens of congressional offices about Qatar’s help in repatriating tens of thousands of Americans stranded by the COVID-19 epidemic back in April, which drew kudos at the time from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

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Turkey: Washington law firm Venable received $202,500 for its work as a subcontractor to Greenberg Traurig for the Embassy of Turkey in the six months through October. During the period Venable policy adviser Loren Aho met with staffers for Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and emailed the floor director for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to oppose a resolution condemning “Turkish interference” in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. He also contacted staffers on the House Foreign Affairs Committee regarding the status of “pending Turkish arms sales.” Congress is blocking major arms sales to Turkey and preventing the country from exporting attack helicopters with US-made parts to Pakistan.

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Turkey: The US envoy of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) reported no payments or lobbying activities in the six months through September, according to a new lobbying filing. Giran Ozcan told Foreign Lobby Report that he was confined in London during the reporting period because of the COVID-19 epidemic and only recently returned to the United States. He said he is waiting for the Electoral College to take action before he starts to reach out to the incoming Joe Biden administration on US-Turkey relations. The HDP usually lobbies policymakers on democratic backsliding in Turkey and the detention of opposition politicians, including HDP co-founder Selahattin Demirtas.

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Caught our eye

Georgetown is the latest US university to come under scrutiny from Congress over Chinese funding, the Washington Post reports.

A website that claims to deliver “news from the European Union” is actually an Indian influence campaign against rivals China and Pakistan, Politico Europe reports.

Update: This post has been updated with information regarding oral arguments by lawyers for Germany’s Stiftung Pressischer Kulturbesitz in the Supreme Court this week.

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