- New American-style university in Baghdad lobbies US for funding
- Another Saudi PR firm gets pay boost
- Chinese solar lobby fights forced labor claims
- Levick ends PR work for 1MDB fugitive Jho Low
- French-owned solar firm lobbies on tax credits
- Colombia extends lobbying contract
- Accused Bulgarian business clan re-ups lobbying defense
- Congress tightens disclosure rules for foreign-paid witnesses
‘From mortars to mortar boards’: American-style university in Baghdad lobbies US for funding
A US-style private nonprofit university in Baghdad that began registering its first students this month has hired lobbying help to get federal funding for its dreams of making Iraq a world-class center of learning once again.
The American University of Iraq – Baghdad (AUIB) hired the Alexandria Group International effective Jan. 1 to help promote the university as a “worthy and worthwhile educational endeavor.” The contract is for $252,000 through 2021.
A key step first step for the university is establishing a US legal presence so it can apply for federal grants that are available only to American entities.
Read the story here.
New lobbying filings
Cayman Islands: The Cayman Islands’ Department of Tourism paid $2.5 million in the six months through September to for “promotional activity/marketing/public relations/advertising” in the United States. The department this month added advertising and marketing specialist Vanessa Vazquez of New Jersey and sales agent Cheryl Hudak of Arizona to its list of registered foreign agents in the US.
Colombia: The Fratelli Group continues to provide media and public relations services for the government of Colombia as it negotiates a new contract after the previous one expired on Dec. 31. The previous contract, effective was for $200,000 over nine months starting on March 30, 2020. The firm’s Frances Cox, Peter Rooney and John Bray are registered on the account.
China: In one of its first actions since registering as an agent for the US subsidiary of Chinese solar panel maker JinkoSolar last month, Mercury Public Affairs distributed the below statement from spokesman Ian McCaleb pushing back against a report from the consultancy Horizon Advisory linking the company to forced Uyghur labor in the western province of Xinjiang.
Malaysia (Jho Low): Levick Strategic Communications has ended its work on behalf of fugitive financier Jho Low via New York law firm Kobre & Kim as of Jan. 1. CEO Richard Levick and corporate and financial practice chair John Lovallo were registered on the account. The firm was hired in January 2020 to provide “strategic communications counsel related to ongoing legal proceedings” concerning Low, who is wanted by US authorities for allegedly embezzling $4.5 billion from Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB. Levick also previously worked on the account for several months in 2019. Australian PR firm Wells Haslem Mayhew Strategic Public Affairs stopped representing Low on Dec. 1, leaving only Kobre & Kim and Schillings International of New York as the only registered foreign agents on the account.
Bulgaria: Alexandria Group International has extended its contract with a Bulgarian business family fighting criminal charges in the country for $90,000 through June 30. The firm led by former State Department official Marshall Harris launched a lobbying campaign last year to convince the US government that the Bobokov family, owners of the Prista Oil motor oil company, are victims of a state conspiracy to steal their assets. Harris’ firm also represents an imprisoned Bulgarian alcohol magnate who he says was similarly framed. Meanwhile a law firm representing a central figure in widespread allegations of state corruption in Bulgaria hired the BGR Group last month to help lawmaker and media mogul Delyan Peevski deal with mounting legal issues in the United States.
Cyprus: Washington lobbying firm Manatos & Manatos received its annual retainer of $160,000 from the Embassy of Cyprus in the six months through November. During the period the firm “convened discussions among leading Cypriot-Americans and Greek-Americans and advised Cypriot officials with respect to US policy” while engaging with US policymakers “regarding interests in the Cypriot-American community, including security, trade and other
issues.” These include a July 20 Zoom panel discussion with Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides to commemorate the anniversary of the 1974 Turkish invasion with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other members of Congress and a Sept. 30 Zoom panel commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Cypriot independence with President Nicos Anastasiades and then-House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and other lawmakers. While the government of Cyprus helps pay for Manatos & Manatos‘ lobbying activities, the firm’s registration with the Department of Justice says the work is conducted on behalf of an informal group of US citizens called the National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes. CEO Andy Manatos is the only agent registered on the account.
France: California solar energy company the SunPower Corporation has hired Peck Madigan Jones to lobby on “issues related to the Investment Tax Credit,” effective Dec. 1, 2020. The company is 52 % owned by French energy giant Total.
Greece: Washington lobbying firm Manatos & Manatos received $98,000 from the Greek ministry of foreign affairs in the six months through November for policy guidance and other services. The firm signed a $12,250-a-month lobbying contract with the ministry in December 2019. CEO Andy Manatos is the only agent registered on the account.
Saudi Arabia: Arena Strategy Group of Wisconsin has signed a new $7,500-per-month public relations contract to represent the Embassy of Saudi Arabia via Iowa’s Larson Shannahan Slifka Group (LS2 Group) starting Jan. 1. That’s up 50 % over the $5,000-per-month contract the two firms signed just last month. Arena is run by Republican political strategist Mark Graul, who served as the Wisconsin state director for President George W. Bush‘s 2004 re-election campaign and chief of staff to former Rep. Mark Andrew Green (R-Wis.). The firm is one of nine subcontractors and consultants working for LS2 on Saudi outreach to the US heartland.
United Arab Emirates: The Brunswick Group of New York received $1.4 million from Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism during the six months through November for public relations services. The bulk of the work involves the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which opened in November 2017. Several agents were terminated from the account on May 20: Partner Kim Mitchell; director John Diviney; account director Agnish Ray; associate Alice Carter; and employee Amanda Liann Mead.
Caught our eye
Thanks to our friends over at the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative for flagging this Jan. 4 press release from the office of Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) about new “Truth-in-Testimony” disclosure requirements for congressional witnesses requiring they disclose grants from foreign governments and fiduciary obligations to any organizations connected to their testimony.
“Hearings are opportunities to get answers for the American people — we need to know about foreign influence or any risk of self dealing with the witnesses called before Congress,” Porter said. “We use hearings to help craft policy and conduct oversight on everything from pharmaceuticals, to fossil fuels, to nuclear weapons. These common sense reforms will make our hearings more effective.”