New in Lobbying, Top contracts

Foreign agents disclose $3 million in new business ahead of Biden transition

Canada’s oil-rich province of Alberta, the Haitian government and an embattled Bulgarian lawmaker are among the foreign clients looking for an edge as Washington prepares to transfer power to the Joe Biden administration.

All told, US firms representing foreign sovereign clients disclosed more than $1.6 million in lobbying contracts and another $1.5 million in public relations deals last month, according to a Foreign Lobby Report review of Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) filings received by the Department of Justice in December.

Leading the pack for new lobbying spending: Alberta’s $340,000, 6-month deal with JDA Frontline Partners to provide “media and government relations strategy and support.” This is Alberta’s third lobbying/PR contract in the past six months. The province is a 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.

Bulgarian lawmaker and media tycoon Delyan Peevski is another foreign actor facing storm clouds in Washington. Aviora Consult, a Bulgarian law firm representing Peevski, hired BGR Government Affairs for $180,000 as the oligarch faces multiple threats including sanctions lobbying by aggrieved Bulgarian business owners and a lawsuit in US court.

The government of Haiti is also eager to smooth over relations with its principal aid donor. The country’s new ambassador to Washington, Bocchit Edmond, signed a year-long, $96,000 contract with Miami-based Latin America Advisory Group amid US trepidation over long-delayed elections in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country.

Meanwhile the Turkey lobby continues to deal with fallout over last year’s conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. With Greenberg Traurig ending its relationship with Ankara amid pressure from Armenian-American groups furious over Turkey’s support for Azerbaijan, Capitol Counsel has now taken over the firm’s accounts with both the Embassy of the Turkey and Turkish Aerospace Industries. And former Greenberg Traurig subcontractor Lydia Borland‘s LB International Solutions is now working for the Turks via Capitol Counsel.

Source: Department of Justice / Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)

US firms also disclosed 10 public relations contracts with foreign clients worth around $1.5 million last month.

These were dominated by New York CEO advisory firm Teneo‘s 3.7 million riyal (about $975,000) deal with Saudi Arabia’s Neom Company, which is developing a $500 billion futuristic mega-city near the border with Jordan. The newly disclosed contract, for work that was slated to start in June 2020, is Teneo’s fourth contract with Neom, the linchpin of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman‘s Vision 2030 project to move the kingdom away from its reliance on oil exports.

Saudi Arabia also saw its PR outreach to the US heartland grow last month with the hiring of Republican operative Mark Graul and his Arena Strategy Group in Wisconsin. A state director for President George W. Bush‘s 2004 re-election campaign, Graul is one of nine consultants and subcontractors working for the Iowa-based Larson Shannahan Slifka Group (LS2 Group) on behalf of the Saudi Embassy in Washington (read our deep dive into state-by-state Saudi influence operations here).

Read all our past monthly reports here.

While the Saudis are awaiting the Joe Biden administration with trepidation after a close partnership with President Donald Trump, the European Union faces the opposite scenario. Ahead of the transfer of power in Washington, the EU delegation to the US has signed a $17,200 contract with Washington public relations firm S-3 Group to audit its digital properties and recommend ways to optimize them “to reach new audiences and better engage current ones.” The firm will also create a “detailed strategy and plan to execute key EU policy,” which could see a boost under the EU-friendly Biden. 

Also hoping to benefit from a Biden presidency: Chinese renewable energy companies. Last month Mercury Public Affairs signed a $100,000 contract with the US subsidiary of China’s JinkoSolar, the world’s largest solar panel manufacturer.

Source: Department of Justice / Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)

Finally, foreign agents disclosed more than $2.5 million in contract renewals in December.

The renewals were dominated by Florida’s RM Broadcasting, which renewed its contract with Russia’s state-run Rossiya Segodnya news agency to carry its Sputnik radio programming in the Washington area for the next three years for $1.98 million.

Source: Department of Justice / Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)