Latest filings

Huawei hires more PR help as lobbying dwindles; top Pelosi aide reps South Korea; ex-ambassador advocates for Ghana gold mine: Wednesday’s Daily Digest

Huawei hires more PR help as lobbying dwindles


Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei has signed a year-long contract with a New York digital marketing agency as the beleaguered company prioritizes an image makeover with the US public over lobbying hostile policymakers.

Huawei Technologies USA, the company’s US subsidiary in Texas, has inked a yearlong contract beginning Jan. 25 with ADLAB, a wholly owned subsidiary of British advertising giant WPP. ADLAB is notably tasked with providing “public relations, issues counseling, crisis management and corporate positioning” as well as “developing consumer marketing solutions and M&A communications” for Huawei.

WPP won the contract to handle global corporate branding for Huawei in 2012.  

The company’s lobbying spending collapsed in 2020, dropping from $6 million in 2019 to just over $1 million, even as other Chinese tech companies continued to ramp up their lobbying.

Read the story here.



New lobbying filings

Africa

Ghana/Canada: Former US ambassador to Ghana Robert Porter Jackson has registered as a foreign agent for a Canadian mining company that operates an open-pit gold mine in the West African country. Jackson is to be paid $3,500 per month to advocate for the Kinross Gold Corporation with Ghanaian officials in his role as a consultant for New York energy research and consulting firm Horizon Client Access. Jackson told Foreign Lobby Report that he registered with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) out of an abundance of caution but had no plans to lobby US officials. The contract comes amid political infighting in Ghana, where the opposition is challenging the re-election of President Nana Akufo-Addo in a December poll that also produced a hung parliament. “I think with the new election and new people in the Ghanaian government they wanted to get some perspective, and I hope I can provide that,” Jackson said. Kinross owns 90 % of the Chirano gold mine, which started production in 2005, with the Ghanaian government owning the rest. Jackson is a retired foreign service officer who served as ambassador to Cameroon in 2010-2013 and Ghana in 2016-2018, under President Barack Obama.

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Americas

Argentina: Glover Park Group managing director Victoria Esser terminated her registration for the Embassy of Argentina as of Jan. 22. Glover Park is a subcontractor to Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer on the account.

Ecuador: Latino advocate Felipe Benitez is the latest addition to Ecuador’s growing stable of lobbyists as the South American country seeks to build on trade talks begun under the Donald Trump administration. Benitez Strategies will provide press support and government lobbying with the goal of “furthering bilateral trade and investment” as a subcontractor to Arnold & Porter. The white-shoe international law firm in November signed a $900,000 contract through May 2021 with Ecuador’s Ministry of Production, Foreign Trade, Investments and Fisheries. The contract with Benitez was effective Jan. 22. He is registered on the account along with Nicole Lee Randall of Arizona. Lobbying forms just published by the US Department of Justice do not include a contract spelling out the terms of the engagement.

Born in Mexico, Benitez is familiar with Capitol Hill, having helped launch the Alliance for Citizenship, a coalition of pro-immigration groups fighting to pass comprehensive immigration reform in Congress. He is also involved with environmental causes, such as helping indigenous groups in the Amazon fight climate change. Benitez briefly lobbied for the attorney general of Ecuador in 2014. As part of his new contract he is expected to work with the Glover Park Group, another Arnold & Porter subcontractor on the account, on the distribution of informational materials such as press releases.

Arnold & Porter‘s lobbying is led by former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Tom Shannon and Raul Herrera, a former general counsel to the Inter-American Investment Corporation. The lobbying push follows President Lenin Moreno‘s February 2020 meeting with Trump, the first White House visit by an Ecuadorean leader in nearly two decades amid an improvement in ties following the departure of leftist leader Rafael Correa in 2017. During the visit, Moreno and his delegation made the case for a bilateral free trade agreement such as the ones the United States has with Ecuadorian competitors including Mexico, Colombia and Peru. They also asked the US to lift tariffs on four key agricultural exports: broccoli, artichokes, tuna and roses.

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Guyana: Guyana lobbyist Jose Cardenas of the Cormac Group continues to raise the alarm with congressional aides about Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro‘s territorial designs on its neighbor. After recommending questions for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to ask at last week’s nomination hearing for Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Cardenas wrote to several House and Senate staffers in charge of the Western Hemisphere on Friday to inform them of Maduro’s recent threats to reconquer territory in the newly oil-rich South American country, according to a new lobbying filing.

“Obviously, we all know that stoking an international incident is in the playbook of every besieged dictatorship,” he wrote in an email. “But given the tensions in Venezuela it makes it all the more dangerous.” The email was sent to staffers on the House and Senate foreign affairs committees as well as aides to Sens. Rubio and Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Florida Republican Reps. Mario Diaz -Balart and Maria Elvira Salazar, and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Guyana’s government hired Cormac for $25,000 per month earlier this month after the firm lobbied on behalf of presidential candidate Irfaan Ali‘s victorious campaign last year.

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Honduras: Honduran lobby shop Gus West Government Affairs shared press statements from President Juan Orlando Hernandez and Foreign Minister Lisandro Rosales via Twitter with White House officials and key lawmakers on the House and Senate foreign affairs panels applauding President Joe Biden‘s proposed four-year, $4 billion regional strategy to address factors driving migration from Central America. “We acknowledge your commitment with the Alliance for Prosperity and welcome your renewed support for the region,” Hernandez wrote in a letter to Biden. “We are prepared to discuss any plan to stimulate economic growth, reduce inequality, promote educational opportunities, target criminal networks, and work to strengthen governance with institutions that are transparent and accountable, as is prioritized in your plan.”

The original Alliance for Prosperity was a $750 million plan produced under the Barack Obama administration when then-vice president Biden served as the point man on the crisis of child migration from the central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. President Donald Trump shelved the plan and temporarily cut off foreign assistance to the countries in 2019, saying their governments had done too little to halt the surge in migration.

Asia

South Korea: Brownstein Hyatt has added policy director Nadeam Elshami, the former chief of staff to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), to its new $30,000-a-month contract with the Embassy of South Korea. Elshami previously registered as a foreign agent on Brownstein’s $65,000-a-month contract with Egypt, causing a furor with liberal groups. Also newly registered to work for South Korea are policy adviser Martha Burke and policy assistant Charlotte Carstens. They join six others on the account, including former House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and former Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska). The new contract comes as South Korea seeks to engage the Joe Biden administration and the new Congress on a range of lingering policy disputes including trade with China and nuclear talks with North Korea.

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Separately, the embassy of South Korea in Washington has renewed its $27,000-per-month contract with BGR Public Relations for six months, through June. BGR has represented the embassy since 2018. The embassy also renewed its congressional lobbying contract with Thomas Kim and his firm Thomas Capitol Partners. The contract is for $41,250 per month through June, down from $45,000 per month previously. Thomas Capitol also renewed its $11,800-per-month contract with the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) for all of 2021. Kim has represented KITA and the embassy since 2010.

Europe

Georgia: The government of Georgia has renewed its $65,000-per-month contract with the Chartwell Strategy Group through the end of the year. Managing director Matthew Epperly signed the contract, which explicitly calls for increasing US security assistance and foreign direct investment. The renewal comes amid intense rivalry between the United States and Russia for influence in the Caucasus country, which fought a war with its Russian neighbor in 2008. The developers of a massive Black Sea port that the US sees as key to countering Russian influence in the region hired a US firm last year to help resolve a dispute with the Georgian government.

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Middle East

Israel: Former Bill Clinton aide Steve Rabinowitz has hired Berger Hirschberg Strategies for $15,000 to fundraise for the Israeli government-backed nonprofit Shalom Corps between Jan. 25 and Feb. 25. Founded by presidential campaign veterans Stephanie Berger and Rachel Hirschberg, Berger Hirschberg bills itself as “Washington D.C. and New York City’s premier Democratic political fundraising firm.” The contract comes after the Shalom Corps hired Rabinowitz’s Bluelight Strategies for $30,000 to raise funds and awareness for the Shalom Corps and its initiative to vaccinate all 320,000 surviving Holocaust survivors around the world against the COVID-19 virus. The plan has caused a political stir in Israel, with some critics calling it an ill-thought-out electoral ploy by Diaspora Minister and Knesset member Omer Yankelovitch. The Shalom Corps’ contract with Rabinowitz notably calls on him to help with both high-level fundraising with Jewish family foundations as well as lower-level fundraising through online appeals and direct mail, with the goal of eventually raising $10 million for Shalom Corps projects.

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Caught our eye

CIA counterintelligence chief  Sheetal Patel sent a note to retired officers this week warning against working for foreign governments, the New York Times reports. Patel reportedly bemoaned a “detrimental trend” of “foreign governments, either directly or indirectly, hiring former intelligence officials to build up their spying capabilities.”

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