Latest filings

Canada’s Alberta hires third firm amid Keystone pipeline feud; Teneo inks fourth contract with Saudi megacity for $1 million; Mercury strikes $100,000 deal with Chinese solar company: Monday’s Daily Digest

New lobbying filings

Americas

Canada

The oil-rich province of Alberta continues to expand its Washington influence operations amid tensions with the incoming Joe Biden administration over the Keystone pipeline and other energy issues. The Canadian province’s Ministry of Jobs, Economy and Innovation inked a $340,000 contract with bipartisan public relations firm JDA Frontline Partners on Dec. 18. The contract runs through May 31, 2021. JDA is tasked with providing “strategic communications counsel, planning, and advertising and content creation and placement;” “opinion research and message testing;” and “media and government relations strategy and support.” The province is part-owner of the long-delayed Keystone XL oil pipeline between Alberta’s oil sands and refineries in Illinois and Texas, which Biden vowed to block during the presidential campaign.

JDA President Trevor Francis, a former communications director for the Republican National Committee, is leading a team of six people on the account. Also registered as foreign agents are JDA partners Matthew George, Amber McDowell and Brendan Buck, a former top communications aide to the last two Republican House speakers, Reps. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). JDA director David Knaus and content specialist Mark Detlor round out the team. This is the first foreign lobbying registration for JDA, which merged with Blue Engine Message & Media in 2018 to form Seven Letter (Seven Letter itself registered as a foreign agent of the Embassy of Japan in August).

The firm reports to Alberta’s senior representative to the US, James Rajotte, a former conservative member of parliament who was part of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group for 10 years. In a May 2020 interview with the Calgary Eyeopener, Rajotte said he planned to advocate for the pipeline with both Democrats and Republicans. “Obviously, we’ll make our case to both political parties,” Rajotte said. “But especially, we’ll make it to the Biden campaign. We’ll make it to members of the House of Representatives, and Senate, and the Democratic Party — some of whom have, frankly, even toured the oil sands and have a firsthand knowledge of the Alberta economy.”

Alberta previously signed a one-year, $350,000 deal with Crossroads Strategies in November for government relations strategies “regarding the export of goods, including natural resources from the Province of Alberta to the United States.” Former Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and John Breaux (D-La.) are leading that lobbying effort. Alberta also has a $30,000/month contract with Ottawa-based Crestview Strategy through March 2021.

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Guyana: Guyana’s Ministry of Tourism, Industry & Commerce has hired Jane Behrend and her Georgia-based travel marketing company Emerging Destinations for $69,000 to promote the South American country as a sustainable tourism destination in the United States and Canada. The contract was effective Dec. 10 and runs though March 31, 2021. The firm’s tasks include include “strategy council, sales representation, marketing and promotional activities, digital marketing, press and public relations and fulfilment of enquiries from trade and the public.” One of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, tiny Guyana is witnessing an oil boom that saw competing political parties pour money into US influence campaigns amid bitterly disputed elections earlier this year.

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Asia

China: Mercury Public Affairs has signed a seven-week, $100,000 contract to provide public relations services to the US subsidiary of China’s JinkoSolar, the world’s largest solar panel manufacturer. Mercury will provide “public relations services related to principal’s business practices and economic interests, including outreach to U.S.-based media.” The contract was effective Dec. 18 and runs until Feb. 7.

The registration comes as JinkoSolar’s share price has been skyrocketing amid Joe Biden‘s election as well as political support for renewable energy in China. The company is a member of the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group whose priorities include lifting President Donald Trump‘s 2018 tariffs on imported solar panels, which were aimed at competition from China; extend by five years tax credits for solar energy systems that have begun to phase out; and naming Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioners who support clean energy. Registered on the account are Mercury senior partner John Gallagher; partners Daniel Marc Bank and Nicole Flotteron; Vice President Gregory Drilling; Managing Director Ian McCaleb; and director Brent James Petrone.

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Japan: St. Louis PR firm Fleishman-Hillard stopped representing the Office of the Prime Minister of Japan on Aug. 1. The firm received $13,500 from the office during the six months through October. The office of then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe signed a $40,000 contract with Fleishman-Hillard in February 2020 to help place op-eds in US media.

Japan: Maryland law firm Greenfield Law disclosed $15,000 in payments from the Embassy of Japan in the six months through November. Firm owner Aaron Greenfield is the only registered agent on the account. On Nov. 30 he met with Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation CEO Ben Wu and former Rep. Connie Morella (R-Md.) to discuss “Japan-Maryland relations.”

Japan (Okinawa): Satoshi Uechi has formally registered as a foreign agent of the Okinawa Prefectural Government of Japan, five months after replacing Osamu Unten as president and director of Okinawa’s DC Office.

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Kazakhstan: Former Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) stopped representing Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Justice via Greenberg Traurig on Dec. 18. The ministry first hired the firm in May 2018, just weeks after a US federal court ruled in favor of a Moldovan investor in the country’s oil sector seeking to enforce a $520 million arbitration award against Kazakhstan. In January 2020 the firm signed a $850,000 extension with the ministry through the end of last year.

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South Korea: St. Louis PR firm Fleishman-Hillard stopped representing the South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on Oct. 8. The firm was hired in August for $9,500 to boost the candidacy of Korean trade minister Yoo Myung-hee to lead the World Trade Organization. The Donald Trump administration rejected Nigerian candidate Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in favor of Yoo in late October, throwing the WTO selection process into uncertainty.

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South Korea: Kingery Samet & Sorini terminated its representation of South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on Dec. 15. The firm had provided government relations and legal advice related to the 2007 US-Korea Free Trade Agreement and other trade issues since September 2017. The firm disclosed $432,000 in fees from the ministry in the second half of 2020. Its lobbyists contacted House Ways and Means Committee trade counsel Alexandra Whittaker in early October about the US position on the race to lead the World Trade Organization, shortly before the Donald Trump administration rejected Nigerian candidate Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in favor of South Korean trade minister Yoo Myung-hee. The firm also contacted Jayme White, the Senate Finance Committee’s chief adviser on International Competitiveness and Innovation, to inquire about the Trump administration’s threat to withdraw from the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA), the international trade agreement that requires participating countries to allow foreign firms to compete for government procurement contracts.

South Korea: KBS America in Los Angeles received $3.1 million in the six months through November to broadcast programs on behalf of the Korean Broadcasting System.

Taiwan: Crowell & Moring International received $108,000 from Taiwan’s Bureau of Foreign Trade in the six months through November for “consultation services on general bilateral trade matters.” During that period the firm’s lobbyists held multiple calls with Rick Ruzicka, the director of trade and commercial
programs at the Washington office of the American Institute in Taiwan, the non-profit, private corporation that represents US interests in Taiwan.

Middle East

Turkey: Lydia Borland‘s LB International Solutions has updated its work contract on behalf of the Embassy of Turkey amid a lobbying shakeup. LB previously lobbied as a subcontractor to Greenberg Traurig until that firm terminated its contract with the embassy at the end of October amid pressure from Armenian-American groups upset over Ankara’s support for Azerbaijan in its recent conflict with Armenia. Another former Greenberg subcontractor, Capitol Counsel, has since taken over the account. LB’s new contract, dated Dec. 17, shows the firm signed up as a subcontractor to Capitol Counsel from Nov. 1 through the end of 2020 for $48,000 (Capitol Counsel has also taken over Greenberg Traurig’s contract with Turkish Aerospace Industries).

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Turkey: The Turkey-US Business Council (TAIK) wrote to President-elect Joe Biden on Dec. 17 to urge him to create a bi-national commission so Turkey and the United States can have an “open forum to regularly communicate, exchange ideas, find ways to cooperate and negotiate problems.” The letter from TAIK Chairman Mehmet Ali Yalcindag comes amid continued US retaliation for Turkey’s purchase of a Russian missile-defense system, including last month’s imposition of sanctions on the Turkish defense sector.

“Bi-national commissions have been successfully deployed by Democratic administrations since the 1990s to foster closer ties to countries with whom the United States has disagreed,” Yalcindag wrote. “Our two countries each have needs and expectations and differences, but it is abundantly in the interests of both to strengthen the relationship, not weaken it. A bi-national commission would create a platform upon which these issues can be discussed.” The letter was distributed by TAIK lobby firm Mercury Public Affairs.

Saudi Arabia: New York CEO advisory firm Teneo Strategy has disclosed a fourth public relations contract with Saudi Arabia’s Neom Company, which is developing a $500 billion futuristic mega-city near the border with Jordan. A linchpin of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman‘s Vision 2030 project to move the kingdom away from its reliance on oil exports, Neom faces questions about its financial viability and allegations of forced displacement of local residents. The contract, which was signed on Dec. 1, ran from June 1 through Nov. 30 and was worth around 3.7 million Saudi riyals (about $1 million). The contract covered:

  • Overall strategic communications counsel;
  • Day-to-day counsel and support on external and internal communications and media relations activities;
  • Development of NEOM sector messaging;
  • Media training for senior NEOM executives;
  • Close coordination with NEOM’s marketing department and other NEOM communications and marketing agencies; and
  • Issues and crisis communications counsel.

Teneo previously signed a contract for 328,000 Riyals ($87,000) per week to develop a strategic positioning plan for Neom CEO Nadhmi al-Nasr in July 2019 and another for 130,000 Riyals ($35,000) per week in December 2019 to manage the Neom Communications Department. In September 2020, the company signed a $250,000 contract with Teneo to help establish “deeper relationships with key stakeholders in the US, UK, China, Hong Kong and Australia, including business leaders, academics, media, potential partners and investors, and other opinion makers.” Neom has also hired Ruder Finn for $1.7 million and retained BCW (Burson Cohn & Wolfe) for $1.1 million.

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