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How Trump’s pardons undercut a decade of FARA enforcement; Pakistan and Taiwan extend influence contracts; South Korean companies hire more lobbyists: Wednesday’s Daily Digest

Guest column: Trump’s pardons undercut a decade of FARA enforcement. What now?

Michael Flynn addresses the Republican National Convention at the Quicken Arena in Cleveland, Ohio on July 18, 2016 / Mark Reinstein / Shutterstock

President Donald Trump‘s pardons for foreign lobbying law violators started with former national security adviser Michael Flynn in November and ended overnight with former Republican National Committee Deputy Finance Chairman Elliott Broidy.

Their cumulative impact, writes guest columnist and Sandler Reiff lawyer Joshua Rosenstein, has been to wipe clean the records of some of the most prominent foreign influence actors in recent history while undoing much of the past decade’s successful enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

At the same time, Rosenstein writes, the pardons have re-energized Congress and federal prosecutors to tighten the law and double down on its enforcement.

Read the column here.

New lobbying filings


Bermuda: Richard Upchurch, the policy manager at technology-focused lobbying firm Access Partnership Corp., will be leaving the firm on Jan. 31 as well as its account with Bermuda’s Ministry of Home Affairs. The firm belatedly registered as a foreign agent last fall after working since 2004 to help the British Overseas Territory develop its satellite communications industry “on a global scale through establishment of a licensing system, assisting in development of telecommunications infrastructure, and bringing BermudaSat-1 under the necessary regulatory guidelines.” Access Partnership Director Kathryn Martin remains registered as a foreign agent for Bermuda.

Canada: Canadian public utility Hydro-Quebec continues its campaign to sway Maine public opinion on a proposed $1 billion cross-border power line to bring hydropower from Quebec to New England. A newly disclosed lobbying filing shows that Washington-based Forbes Tate Partners targeted state voters with a survey this month regarding their thoughts on the so-called Clean Energy Corridor project. The survey contains several leading questions, notably highlighting opposition to the project from out-of-state oil and gas companies as well as the fact that the project has received necessary state and federal permits to date. The survey also highlights the alleged financial benefits of the project in terms of economic investment and construction jobs.

The state’s powerful environmental groups tried but failed to add a referendum on the project on last year’s ballot. Hydro-Quebec’s US affiliate, H.Q. Energy Services (US), extended its PR contract with Forbes Tate for six months in November, just days after opponents received the green light to collect signatures for another referendum on the matter during this year’s gubernatorial election. While Hydro-Quebec and its partner Central Main Power say construction of hydro-power line will benefit the environment overall, opponents are concerned about the potential damage caused by deforestation and Canada’s large-scale dams.

The fight isn’t limited to the border states but potentially impacts the US relationship with energy-rich Canada under President Joe Biden.

Quebec power company prepares for Round 2 against Maine environmentalists
Canada province braces for fight with Biden over Keystone Pipeline

In a Nov. 23 tweet, the province’s chief executive, Premier Francois Legault, welcomed news of John Kerry‘s selection as Biden’s climate envoy by touting Quebec hydropower as something that US states should embrace if they want to fight against global climate change. Meanwhile on the other side of Canada, oil-rich Alberta has hired a slew of lobbying firms to push back against Biden’s campaign promise to block the Keystone XL pipeline.


South Korea: South Korean conglomerate Samsung has added Subject Matter and firm co-founder Steve Elmendorf to its stable of lobbyists. Elmendorf rose to become chief of staff to then-House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) and served as deputy campaign manager for President Joe Biden‘s climate envoy John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. He is among five lobbyists registered on the account along with Cedric Grant, a former chief of staff to House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.). They will monitor and advocate on trade, tax, technology and environmental issues. The registration was effective Dec. 1.

South Korea: South Korean chemical company LG Chem has retained the services of law firm Mayer Brown as it ramps up its trade dispute with the country’s largest energy company, SK Innovation Co. Lawyer Timothy Keeler, a former chief of staff in the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), is lobbying on “administration of US trade laws and regulations concerning trade secrets for manufactured products in the energy sector.” The belated registration was effective Oct. 1, 2020. LG Chem is involved in a dispute before the US International Trade Commission with SK Innovation, which LG Chem accuses of stealing trade secrets related to car battery technology. SK Innovation in turn has hired former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Carol Browner, now with Covington & Burling, effective Jan. 1

Pakistan: Houston-based Linden Government Solutions has extended its contract with the Embassy of Pakistan for another three months until April 15, 2021. The unusual pro bono contract allows the firm to try to collect payment from the diaspora community. Linden President Stephen Payne and former executive vice president Joseph Fleming, now a consultant with the firm, are registered on the account.

Pakistan: The North American office of the disciplinary panel of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) has registered as a foreign agent in the United States. The registration of the so-called Standing Committee on Accountability and Discipline (SCAD) comes amid infighting among members of Prime Minister Imran Khan‘s party in the United States.

Taiwan: Gephardt Group Governmental Affairs has renewed its contract with Taiwan’s de facto embassy in Washington, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), for another six months starting Jan. 1. The contract is for $22,000 per month, as before. The firm is led by former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.).


Middle East

Jordan: Washington speechwriting and strategy firm West Wing Writers associates Shaan Heng-Devan and Katherine Childs Graham are no longer preparing speeches and written communications for Jordanian officials as of Feb. 1, 2020 and April 1, 2020, respectively.