Latest filings

Ex-Cruz aide joins Trump campaign adviser on former AG Ashcroft’s Congo account; Ruder Finn registers 13 agents on Saudi account; Muslim World League presses Facebook & Twitter on hate speech: Wednesday’s Daily Digest

Ex-Cruz aide joins Trump campaign adviser on former AG Ashcroft’s Congo account

Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso talks to the media at UN headquarters in New York on May 31, 2006 / UN photo by Devra Berkowitz

The law firm headed by former Attorney General John Ashcroft has hired a veteran Republican communications aide for public relations help as it defends the Congolese government in a decades-old international legal dispute over unpaid bills.

Catherine Frazier, the senior vice president at Austin-based Clout Public Affairs, has registered as a subcontractor to the Ashcroft Law Firm in its work for the Republic of Congo. Clout is a division of Kansas City-based Republican consulting outfit Axiom Strategies.

Frazier was a senior communications adviser to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) before joining Clout in 2019. She previously served as press secretary to then-Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. She joins Donald Trump 2016 campaign adviser Barry Bennett of Avenue Strategies as a subcontractor on the account.

Read the story here.


New lobbying filings and developments

Africa

Cameroon: Following our report this week that Squire Patton Boggs had ended its 16-year run representing the West African nation of Cameroon, reader Jeffrey Smith of Vanguard Africa helpfully pointed out that this is the fourth influence firm to end ties with the authoritarian government of President Paul Biya in the past few years (Vanguard lobbied for Cameroon anti-corruption crusader Akere Muna between 2017 and 2019). The termination leaves Cameroon without any registered lobbyists in Washington.

Clout Public Affairs of Austin, Texas, a division of Kansas City-based Republican consulting outfit Axiom Strategies, stopped working for Cameroon in June 2020 after just one year. Before that, the Glover Park Group ended a year-long, $51,000-a-month engagement several months early in June 2019. And a $100,000-per-month contract with Mercury Public Affairs that was supposed to last a year ended after just a few weeks in August 2018.

You can read Smith’s Aug. 11 blog post about the slew of terminations — and the outcry from the opposition over the lobbying fees paid by the impoverished country — here.

Americas

Dominican Republic: Gray Global Advisors President and CEO Justin Gray has registered to lobby for the Dominican Republic. Gray’s firm signed a $20,000-a-month subcontracting agreement in November with Vision Americas, which itself signed a six-month, $103,000-per-month with the government of President Luis Abinader in October. Vision Americas is led by Roger Francisco Noriega, a former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs and ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS) under President George W. Bush. The lobbying push comes as the new Dominican president seeks to consolidate the close US partnership he forged under the Donald Trump administration.

Gray joins former Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), a senior adviser to Gray Global Advisors, and firm principal Ralph Nurnberger on the account. Gray co-founded the firm with his father, the late Rep. William Gray, a Pennsylvania Democrat who served in Congress from 1979 to 1991. The elder Gray was the first African American to serve as House Majority Whip, the third highest position in the majority party.

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Guyana: The Cormac Group has registered consultant David Lewis of Potomac, Maryland on its account with the government of Guyana. Lewis will provide counsel regarding “Guyana relations (political, foreign policy, economic/commercial) with the USA from a public policy perspective and implications and relevance to US executive and legislative branch processes” along with “direct advocacy/outreach with US government departments and agencies as well as international organizations.” Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation signed a six-month, $25,000-per-month contract with the Cormac Group on Dec. 28 after the firm represented the winning electoral campaign of President Irfaan Ali.

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Asia

China (Huawei): New York PR firm Ruder Finn has registered Group Vice President Brianna Rabe on its account with Huawei Technologies USA, the Texas-based US affiliate of the beleaguered Chinese telecommunications giant. She will provide “services in support of Huawei’s communications in the US market [comprising] content strategy and development, media relations, industry analyst relations, strategic counsel and thought leadership.” Huawei Technologies USA signed a $1.45 million contract with Ruder Finn at the end of October for “strategic counsel, media relations, analyst relations, data insights, content strategy and policy communications” as Huawei shifts its focus from lobbying to public relations amid bipartisan hostility in Washington.

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South Korea: Hyeshin Won has registered as a foreign agent of the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation in Washington, where she serves as treasurer and administrator.

Taiwan: Crowell & Moring International has renewed its lobbying contract with Taiwan’s Bureau of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Economic Affairs for another year, through 2021. The contract is for $216,000 per year, the same as previously. Crowell has represented the bureau since 2014.

Europe

Bosnia: McGinnis Lochridge has renewed its lobbying contract with Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Bosnian Serb entity, Republika Srpska. The contract is for $65,000 per month for one year through the end of 2021, down from $80,000 per month pre-COVID 19. The firm has represented Republika Srpska since 2019.

The firm is tasked with providing advice and representation on:

  • Republika Srpska’s legal rights and obligations under applicable international law including the Dayton Peace Accords and other international agreements to which Bosnia-Herzegovina is a party, such as the European Convention on Human Rights;
  • Rights and obligations vis-a-vis the Office of High Representative, the Peace Implementation Council, the UN Security Council, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the European Union, the Council of Europe, and others;
  • Relations with the international community;
  • Legal issues related to bringing the institutions and laws of Republika Srpska and Bosnia-Herzegovina into conformity with the Bosnia-Herzegovina constitutional framework under the Dayton Peace Accords; and
  • Legal issues related to bringing the institutions and laws of Republika Srpska and Bosnia-Herzegovina into conformity with European standards in connection with accession to the EU.

Bulgaria: Bulgarian winemaker Minyu Staykov was released from jail Tuesday night following an advocacy campaign in Washington, his lobbyist Marshall Harris of Alexandria Group International tells Foreign Lobby Report. “He had been held — without medical care or attention, without any substantive court hearings, and without even a single interrogation (!) — for nearly 2 years and five months,” Harris wrote in an email. Staykoy’s wife hired the Alexandria Group in October for $156,000 to raise concerns with Congress and the executive branch about the rule of law in the country. Staykov is accused of swindling European Union rural aid money. Harris, who also represents a business family behind the Prista Oil motor oil company, says Bulgarian politicians are pursuing bogus charges against legitimate business people to take over their assets. Meanwhile the law firm representing one of the chief targets of anti-corruption watchdogs’ criticism, media mogul and lawmaker Delyan Peevski, has hired the BGR Group amid his own legal problems in the United States.

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Listen to our Jan. 15 interview with Harris on our Influencers podcast with Richard Levick of the LEVICK communications firm here:

Middle East

Qatar: Barzan Aeronautical, the Qatari-owned aerospace company building spy planes in South Carolina, sends us this statement from Director of Business and Government Relations Laura O’Neill Ott after we reported Tuesday that the company has registered new leadership under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA):

“We are delighted to confirm that Mr. [John] Hardwick has been appointed as the Company’s new Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Hardwick brings decades of commercial experience working with companies in the technology, aerospace and defense industries. In addition to his extensive industry knowledge and experience, as part of the minority community, Mr. Hardwick has a proven track record of building top-tier management teams that are the ‘gold standard’ for diversity and inclusiveness, values that are as important to the Company as its commercial business. Mr. Hardwick is a graduate of Duke University and Boston College Law School.

As the Company continues to experience commercial success, Barzan also has added Mr. Gerald Straughn as the Chief Financial Officer, and Mr. Craven continues with Barzan supporting the Company’s global operations.

I will note that Barzan is a commercial company focused on business operations in the United States and globally. Its business activities do not regularly include lobbying matters. As it conducts commercial operations in regulated industries, it files under the Foreign Agent Registration Act as part of its overall compliance program.”

Saudi Arabia (Neom): New York public relations firm Ruder Finn has registered 13 new agents on its account with Saudi Arabia’s Neom Company, which is building a $500 billion futuristic megacity in the desert as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman‘s gambit to transform the country’s oil-dominated economy. The firm signed a $1.7 million contract with Neom last June to promote its corporate social responsibility efforts amid international press coverage of forced displacements and the killing of a protester. Ruder Finn CEO Kathy Bloomgarden personally signing the contract with Neom CEO Nadhmi al-Nasr. Bloomgarden was one of three original agents on the account, along with Group Vice President Brianna Rabe and Senior Vice President Brian Laird. Joining them now are Executive Vice President for brand marketing John Nolan and Executive Vice President Monica Marshall, the head of RF Relate and Ruder Finn’s Washington office. Also newly registered are:

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Saudi Arabia (Muslim World League): Qorvis Communications distributed letters from Muslim World League Secretary General Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey asking them to do more to remove hate speech from their platforms. “The MWL is calling for a zero-tolerance policy towards hate speech targeting Muslims or adherents to any religion and more robust procedures to see hateful content quickly removed,” Al-Issa wrote. “The MWL stands ready to begin an open and constructive dialogue with all social media companies so that we may together end the spread of hateful ideologies.” Qorvis has represented the Muslim World League, which is based in Mecca and receives funding from the Saudi government, since 2019.

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