- Chinese solar giant hires lobbying help as Biden eyes renewables
- Guest column: What influence actors need to know to stay out of trouble
- Ex-McCain aide ends work for former Georgian president Saakashvili’s party
- PR firm for German museum paid ex-Biden aide $87,000 in Nazi confiscation case
- Turkish opposition bemoans Turkey’s growing reliance on Qatar
Chinese solar giant hires lobbying help as Biden eyes renewables
The US subsidiary of a Chinese solar panel giant has hired a leading bipartisan lobbying firm as the renewable energy sector hopes for a major boost under the incoming Joe Biden administration.
Mercury Public Affairs is currently negotiating a written contract with JinkoSolar (U.S.), the San Francisco-based subsidiary of the world’s largest solar panel manufacturer. The firm was retained effective Dec. 7 to advise on “public relations services related to JinkoSolar’s business practices and economic interests, including outreach to US-based media,” according to a new lobbying filing.
JinkoSolar isn’t alone among foreign renewable energy companies stepping up their lobbying.
Hanwha Q CELLS America Inc., the US subsidiary of South Korean solar panel maker Hanwha Solutions Corp., and Spanish green energy giant Iberdrola are among the renewable energy companies that have recently stepped up their lobbying.
Read the story here.
Guest column: What influence actors need to know to stay out of trouble
In his first guest column for Foreign Lobby Report, lawyer and Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) expert Joshua Rosenstein goes through recent developments in the Justice Department’s enforcement priorities.
In particular, he writes, the department’s new focus on the internet as a “hook” in going after actors abroad poses incredibly complicated issues.
“Broadly,” Rosenstein writes, “the takeaway is that internationally located communications, public relations, and public affairs firms that represent foreign principals and conduct their work entirely abroad may still be required to register if they direct their activities at a US audience.”
Read the column here.
New lobbying filings
Haiti: Mercury Public Affairs distributed a biography of Haiti’s new ambassador to the United States, Bocchit Edmond, to policymakers and other interested parties. A former minister of foreign affairs, Edmond was appointed by President Jovenel Moise on Dec. 1. He replaces Herve Denis, who had been in the post since February 2019. The appointment comes as Haiti’s delayed parliamentary elections, which were supposed to take place in 2019, have caused some friction between the two countries. In one of his first actions in his new role, Edmond reassured the State Department’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Michael Kozak about the country’s intent to hold elections next year. Mercury has represented the Haitian presidency as a subcontractor of Mercury International UK since 2018. The firm reported $374,000 in fees and expenses for its Haiti work in 2019.
Hong Kong: The Hong Kong Tourism Board in Los Angeles received $870,000 from the Hong Kong government in the six months through October and spent $974,000 promoting tourism to the territory.
India: India Tourism in New York received $1.47 million from the Ministry of Tourism in New Delhi to promote travel to India in the six months through April, according to a belated lobbying filing.
Georgia: Washington lobbying firm Orion Strategies terminated its work for the Georgia opposition party United National Movement (UNM) on Oct. 7, just weeks before parliamentary elections that saw UNM come in second place behind the ruling Georgian Dream party. Working on the contract were the firm’s founding partner, Michael Mitchell, a former State Department official and press aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and his partner Randy Scheunemann, a former foreign policy adviser to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). The party hired the firm in October 2019 for $250,000 for one year to lobby for US help in “building and supporting an open and democratic process in Georgia.”
Lobbying records show the firm over the past six months reached out to congressional aides on the Senate Appropriations and Foreign Relations committees, the Helsinki Commission, the House Republican Study Committee and the office of Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who co-chairs the House Georgia Caucus. Scheunemann and Mitchell notably raised concerns about the arrest of opposition figures including Giorgi Rurua and warned about “anti-democratic developments” under the rule of billionaire businessman and politician Bidzina Ivanishvili‘s Georgian Dream. Rurua was sentenced to four years in prison on weapons charges in July. Several US lawmakers and members of the European Union have called for his release.
The United National Movement was founded in 2001 by Mikheil Saakashvili, who later served as president from 2004 to 2013 (he stepped down as the party’s chairman last year in favor of his own nominee, Grigol Vashadze). Orion’s ties to Saakashvili long predate their recent work for the UNM: The firm lobbied for his government between 2004 and 2012. lobbying records show. That work became an issue in the 2008 US presidential election when Scheunemann stepped down from his role as president of Orion to serve as foreign policy adviser for McCain’s campaign.
Germany: KARV Communications has disclosed additional information about its years-long public relations work for the Stiftung Pressischer Kulturbesitz (SPK) via law firm Wiggin and Dana. The German museum is involved 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 new documents show KARV employees have spoken to numerous journalists about the case since 2015 and paid around $87,000 to consultant Norm Kurz, a former communications director for then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) who is now president of Washington consulting firm the Kurz Company. In addition to Kurz, the firm registered two employees as foreign agents on the account: President Andrew Frank and Executive Vice-President Eric Andrus. The Supreme Court heard arguments last week from Wiggin and Dana lawyer Jonathan Freiman in a case over whether the SPK is protected from having to provide restitution under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.
Turkey: The US office of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Turkey’s main opposition party, received $89,000 from party headquarters in the six months through November. During that time CHP envoy to the US Yurter Ozcan met with State Department Senior Advisor for Syria Engagement Rich Outzen and judicial liaison John Jasik. Ozcan also met with employees of the Center for American Progress, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Turkish Coalition of America and with Lydia Borland, whose firm LB International Solutions lobbies for the government of Turkey. Finally, Ozcan met with Uyghur activists Rushan Abbas and Omer Kanat in late October and early November following his publication of a report taking President Recep Tayyip Erdogan‘s government to task for failing to confront China over its treatment of the ethnic minority.
In another filing, Ozcan indicated that he had distributed a press statement regarding CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu‘s criticism of cash-strapped Turkey’s investment deals with gas-rich Qatar, including the transfer of 10 percent of shares in the Borsa Istanbul stock exchange to the Gulf emirate. “Everything is being sold,” Kilicdaroglu said in a Nov. 27 program on Fox. “If they say tomorrow ‘We have sold half of the [Presidential] Palace to Qataris,’ no one should be surprised.”.
The US Council For International Business has hired Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg to lobby on “customs and trade work.” Lobbying on the account are David Olave and Nicole Bivens Collinson, a former assistant textile negotiator with the Office of the US Trade Representative.
New York private equity investor AmeroCap LLC has hired Blank Rome Government Relations to “facilitate communications between client and US government officials who work for agencies and offices that assist US firms in their efforts to secure foreign business opportunities where foreign governments are part of the process.” Former Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham is leading the team of four which includes Scott Hatch, C.J. Zane and Brad Knollenberg.
Caught our eye
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s former personal representative for the G20, Jonathan Fried, has joined the Albright Stonebridge Group as a senior adviser. Fried previously served as Canada’s Ambassador to the World Trade Organization. Also joining the commercial diplomacy firm is Steve Solot, who managed production policy for Netflix in Latin America, Spain and Portugal.