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New Ukraine lobbying raises eyebrows in Kyiv; Ros-Lehtinen lobbies against Kazakhstan; Turkey lobby renews anti-Gulen push: Tuesday’s Daily Digest

New Ukraine lobbying push raises eyebrows in Kyiv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky smiles during the Ukraine-EU Summit in Kyiv on July 8, 2019 / Sergei Chuzavkov

A new lobbying push to “improv[e] the reputation of Ukraine in the world” is raising concerns in Kyiv that it could inadvertently have the opposite effect.

West Capital Inc., an asset management company in Casper, Wyoming, registered as a lobbyist for the Office of the President of Ukraine at the end of last year. This week the firm updated its filing to say it was working for the ​Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine.

The new push appears to have caught by surprise a Ukrainian government that is eager to replace lobbying with more traditional government-to-government relations after four years of President Donald Trump‘s brand of personal diplomacy.

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Africa

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Greystone Global Strategies ceased lobbying for the leader of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s National Assembly on Dec. 31 after the contract wasn’t renewed past its initial term. The office of Jeanine Mabunda, the first woman to ever lead the chamber, retained the Washington political consulting firm for $7,500 per month last summer to press for the legislature’s priorities amid tensions with the country’s US-backed president. A long-time politician close to former President Joseph Kabila, Mabunda was impeached by parliament and removed from the position on Dec. 10 in a clash between supporters of Kabila and President Felix Tshisekedi. Greystone CEO Chris Beatty was the only registered foreign agent on the account. He previously worked with the political campaigns and the administrations of presidents Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Liberia and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of Ghana.

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Americas

Cayman Islands: Munk Policy and Law disclosed $75,000 in payments from the Cayman Islands’ Ministry of Financial Services and Home Affairs in the six months through November to analyze tax proposals from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) “and their impact on US investment via Cayman.” The firm has represented the Cayman Islands since May 2019. Owner Jeffrey Munk is the only registered agent on the account.

Dominica: The Massachusetts-based Commonwealth of Dominica Maritime Registry disclosed $516,000 for vessel registrations, mariner certification and technical services for Dominica-flagged vessels from vessel owners and operators during the six months through November. The registry registered six new foreign agents around the world in late December: Director of Policy and Legal Affairs Nicole Lynn Andrescavage (New England); adjuster Ida Stier D’Esposito (Spain); senior marine surveyor Hong Phuc Tran (Vietnam); marine chief engineer Gurhan Burak Alkoc (Turkey); agent Tirzah Yanchyshyn (Malaysia/Hong Kong); and lawyer Hristiyana Bihlyumova Rusinova (Bulgaria).

Venezuela: Amsterdam & Partners did not report any political activities on behalf of Venezuela Attorney General Reinaldo Munoz Pedroza during the six months through October. The law firm, which has offices in Washington and London, signed a $4.05 million contract with Pedroza in late February to help fight US sanctions through the end of 2020. Registered on the account are founding partner Robert Amsterdam, managing partner Andrew Durkovic and associate Cameron Ashouripour.

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Asia

Kazakhstan: Argentem Creek Partners has hired Akin Gump to lobby on behalf of US-based investors seeking to collect on an arbitration award obtained against the government of Kazakhstan for “expropriation of investment assets.” Lobbyists on the account include former House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ieana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.). The government of Kazakhstan sued Argentem Creek and chief executive Daniel Chapman last year, accusing them of conspiring to fraudulently secure an arbitration award of more than $500 million on behalf of Moldovan tycoon Anatolie Stati.

Kazakhstan and Stati have been battling in the courts in the United States and Europe for years over Kazakhstan’s seizure of Stati’s petroleum operations in 2010. Also lobbying on the account are Scott Parven, a former legislative assistant to the late Rep. Nicholas Mavroules (D-Mass.); Ryan Thompson, a former chief of staff to Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.); and Geoff Verhoff, a former press aide to former Sen. William Roth (R-Del.). The government of Kazakhstan has launched its own lobbying and public relations blitz to fight Stati’s claims.

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Middle East

Qatar: The state of Qatar paid New York law firm Debevoise & Plimpton $24,000 in the six months through November for lobbying services related to the firm’s work defending the emirate against the embargo imposed since June 2017 by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt. The Gulf rivals finally buried the hatchet today at a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The firm has two lawyers registered as foreign agents on the account: Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and David Rivkin, the co-chair of Debevoise’s International Dispute Resolution Group. The firm disclosed an Aug. 17 call with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Timothy Lenderking to discuss the blockade. The firm also participated in four calls in September and October with White House and Justice Department staff to discuss the department’s Sept. 14 determination that Washington-based AJ+ needed to register as a foreign agent of Doha. Call recipients included then-Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen (currently the acting AG) and Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers. Debevoise & Plimpton has been registered as a foreign agent of Qatar since 2018.

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Turkey: Amsterdam & Partners resumed its lobbying against US charter schools linked to exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen during the six months through October after an almost two-year hiatus. The firm sent letters in June and July to Secretary of Education Betsy Devos; Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost; South Carolina AG Alan Wilson; Oklahoma AG Mike Hunter; and California AG Tony Thurmond to highlight “waste, fraud, and abuse in certain charter schools in the
U.S.” During the period the firm disclosed $300,000 in payments from the Embassy of Turkey. The embassy hired Amsterdam for $50,000 per month in 2015 amid rising tensions between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his erstwhile ally Gulen, whom Ankara blames for the failed coup in 2016. Registered on the account are founding partner Robert Amsterdam, managing partner Andrew Durkovic and subcontractor John Martin.

United Arab Emirates: The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates has renewed its contract with the Harbour Group to provide “public affairs and communications counsel related to the development and management of a public diplomacy and communications program in the US.” The objective is to “improve bilateral diplomatic, security and commercial relationships” via “efforts to influence US policy with respect to bilateral relations, such as trade and investment matters, geopolitical strategic issues, and cultural programs.” The contract was effective Jan. 1. Work is to be billed hourly.


Caught our eye

Ballard Partners, the firm led by Donald Trump‘s former Florida lobbyist Brian Ballard, is adding Democratic muscle ahead of President-elect Joe Biden‘s inauguration. The firm said in a press release today that it had hired top Florida Democratic fundraiser Courtney Whitney, a consultant for the super PAC Priorities USA that supported Biden’s candidacy, as a partner in its Washington and Miami offices. Former Democratic congressional staffers Ana Cruz and Stephanie Grutman are also joining the firm’s Washington office. Ballard is currently registered to lobby for the governments of Qatar, Zimbabwe and the Dominican Republic.

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