New foreign influence contracts slowed to a trickle in January following a surge in spending in the immediate aftermath of President Joe Biden‘s election.
Influence firms disclosed new lobbying and public relations deals worth a little over $800,000 with the Department of Justice last month, according to a Foreign Lobby Report review of Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) records. That’s down from $3 million in December and $6 million in November.
The top contract last month was Alexandria Group International‘s year-long agreement with the American University of Iraq – Baghdad. The firm led by former State Department official and Freedom House Vice President Marshall Harris is expected to be paid $252,000 to help get federal funding for the university, which began registering its first students last month.
In second place is Brownstein Hyatt‘s six-month, $180,000 contract with the Embassy of South Korea. Former House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and former Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) are helping Seoul engage the Biden administration and the new Congress on a range of lingering policy disputes including trade with China and nuclear talks with North Korea.
Rounding out the top three, the government of Guyana has hired the firm that helped represent winning presidential candidate Irfaan Ali in last year’s bitter electoral dispute. The Cormac Group is to be paid $150,000 for six months as the South American country charts the path forward with its newfound oil wealth and looks for help in a territorial dispute with its neighbor Venezuela.
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Other notable developments include a pair of contracts signed by a Pakistani politician from Prime Minister Imran Khan‘s ruling Tehreek-e-Insaf party to lobby on the dispute with India over Kashmir and other issues.
Former Mongolian Vice President Chimed Saikhanbileg is getting an assist from Amsterdam & Partners to build international pressure on his political rivals to drop charges in a mining dispute.
And Robert Stryk, a lobbyist close to former President Donald Trump, inked a pro bono deal with an Australian free-press group to seek a pardon for WikiLeaks‘ Julian Assange, who has been charged with espionage (Trump did not grant Assange a pardon).
Meanwhile Qatar continued to expand its army of Washington influencers as Doha’s lobbying disputes with its Arab Gulf rivals the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia show no sign of letting up even after they dropped their three-year-old blockade against the emirate last month.
“Qatar isn’t going to change its basic ideology,” Qatar lobbyist and former Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) told Foreign Lobby Report. “There’s going to be continuing friction in that way.”
Separately, public relations firms disclosed five new contracts last month, two of which have to do with a controversial Israeli plan to vaccinate Holocaust survivors around the world against the COVID-19 virus.
Meanwhile the US subsidiary of China’s Huawei has signed a year-long contract for an undisclosed amount with WPP’s ADLAB as the embattled technology giant steps up a global public relations campaign to clear its name in the United States and beyond.
Finally, US firms disclosed more than $3.3 million worth of contract renewals in January.
The renewals were dominated by a trade group for Ukraine’s oil and gas industry, which has a $960,000-a-year contract with Yorktown Solutions to lobby against Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Western Europe.
And the government of Georgia has renewed its $780,000-a-year contract with the Chartwell Strategy Group as the Caucasus country seeks increased US security assistance and foreign direct investment under the Biden administration.