Latest filings

Peru gets more help in blueberry tariffs fight; DC law firm drops Burmese bank amid coup; Kazakhstan extends $3 million/year contract: Monday’s Daily Digest


NEW IN LOBBYING

Africa

Ethiopia: Indiana-based law firm Barnes & Thornburg has deregistered as a foreign agent for Ethiopia effective Jan. 19. The firm reported no payments or lobbying work for the country in the six months through Feb. 12. Washington-based partner Craig Burkhardt was the only remaining registered individual on the account. The Ethiopian Embassy in Washington hired the firm last summer on a three-month, $130,000 contract to lobby on the diplomatic dispute with Egypt and Sudan over the filling of Ethiopia’s new hydroelectric dam on the Nile. The embassy hired Washington law firm Venable this month for $35,000 per month for an initial three months as Egypt has been ramping up its outreach to Congress regarding the Nile dam through its own new lobby firm, Brownstein Hyatt.

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Americas

Argentina / Ecuador: Arnold & Porter has registered policy adviser Jessica Monahan on its accounts with Argentina and Ecuador. A former Senate aide with extensive experience on transportation, trade and technology policy, she will lobby Congress and the Joe Biden administration on issues including bilateral trade and investment. Arnold & Porter signed a $1.932 million contract with Argentina’s Ministry of International Trade and Foreign Investment in May 2020 for help with a massive debt restructuring and other economic issues, including the elimination of tariffs on biodiesel exports imposed under the Donald Trump administration. And shortly after Biden‘s victory in November, the firm signed a $900,000 agreement with Ecuador’s Ministry of Production, Foreign Trade, Investments and Fisheries to help negotiate a free trade deal.

Monahan joins former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon and Raul Herrera, a former general counsel to the Inter-American Investment Corporation, on both accounts. Arnold & Porter notably lobbied the Biden team to set up the president-elect’s Nov. 30 with Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez, the first with a Latin American leader, Foreign Lobby Report first reported. The firm has also hired Cristina Antelo, a Democratic strategist with close ties to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and her firm Ferox Strategies for $110,000 for help with both accounts.

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Cayman Islands: The Ministry of Financial Services, Commerce and Environment of the Cayman Islands has hired Hill and Knowlton Strategies as the British Overseas Territory seeks to improve its international reputation after being both added and removed from the European Union’s tax haven blacklist last year. The contract runs from Feb. 1 through the end of the year for a maximum of $300,000. The firm will provide “information gathering and analysis, public affairs advisory and support, public relations advisory and support, strategic messaging and content development, and crisis communications” including identifying “media coverage or unexpected political developments that have an adverse effect on the Cayman Islands’ reputation or its financial services industry.” Hill and Knowlton Global Public Affairs Chair Philippe Maze-Sencier is registered to work the account in Brussels while senior vice presidents Joseph Householder, Ronald Hutcheson and Daniel Schwarz and Assistant Account Executive Christopher Bull will work on it from Washington. Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and Munk Policy & Law are also registered as foreign agents for the ministry.

Honduras: Gus West Government Affairs extended its contract with the Government of Honduras in February for $59,000 per month, up from $55,000 per month previously. The firm has represented the Honduran government since 2016. Registered on the account are firm founder Gus West, president of the nonprofit Hispanic Institute in Washington; consultant Leonel Teller Sanchez, a former member of parliament and envoy to the European Union from Nicaragua; and consultant Richard Hernandez. Honduras has also retained the services of BGR Government Affairs for $60,000 per month since January 2020. The lobbying push comes as US prosecutors have accused President Juan Orlando of drug trafficking in the trial of his brother, former Honduran lawmaker Juan Antonio Hernandez Alvarado, who was arrested in Miami in 2018 and found guilty the following year.

Peru: Law firm K&L Gates has been hired to help Peru fend off threatened tariffs on blueberry exports to the United States, the South American country’s largest export market for the fruit. The contract with Morris Manning & Martin on behalf of the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism is for $15,000 per month for four months, starting Feb. 1. The contract however contains a clause that allows it to end early in case of a determination by the US International Trade Commission (ITC) not to recommend trade remedies, which is how the ITC ruled last week. The unanimous ruling disappointed US agricultural lobbies and farm-state lawmakers, who promised to pursue trade remedies in the new Congress. “Today’s ITC determination is disappointing for our hardworking blueberry growers who have watched foreign imported blueberries unjustly replace Florida’s world-class fruit in the U.S. market,” Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said in a statement last week. “This shows the need for greater reforms as Florida’s congressional delegation has proposed that would provide access to effective trade remedies for all seasonal producers – legislation which will be again introduced.”

Registered on the account are lawyers Stacy Ettinger, a partner in K&L Gates’ Washington office, and associate Eli Schooley. They are charged with providing “outreach to key stakeholders before relevant federal agencies and Congress” related to the outcome of the ITC investigation. The Donald Trump administration opened a so-called Section 201 investigation last year into whether blueberry imports from Latin America are harming US producers. Peruvian exports increased by 50 % year over year to more than 120,000 tons and $800 million in 2019, according to Peruvian commercial intelligence agency Fresh Fruit Peru. Earlier this month Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the chairwoman of the US Senate Agriculture Committee, and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) joined several US agricultural trade groups in support of the ITC investigation following earlier outreach by lawmakers representing southern agricultural states.

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Asia

Afghanistan: The Afghanistan-US Democratic Peace and Prosperity Council has registered Ferdous Dehqan of Virginia as a legislative director under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Dehqan, a former political intern with the Afghan Embassy in Washington in 2018, is tasked with helping develop policy priorities and talking points in addition to helping organize meetings with members of Congress and Joe Biden administration officials, managing the group’s web site and researching legislative and policy issues. The council is a US nonprofit, funded by Afghan businessman Mohammad Gul Raoufi, whose board members include Afghan parliamentarians Mir Haider AfzalyNaheed Farid and Haji Ajmal Rahmani. The council has retained the services of four lobbying firms over the past year as it cautions the US against giving too much away in its peace talks with the Taliban: the Bullpen Strategy Group; Duncap Strategies in Mississippi; and Wise Capital Strategy and its subcontractor, Jake Perry + Partners.

Last week, Jake Perry shared a recent op-ed in Newsweek written by Afzaly, Farid and Rahmani with the office of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.). “We need America to continue providing essential military assistance to guarantee a ceasefire and to hold the Taliban
accountable to its promises, especially to women, children and minority groups,” they wrote. “We also need America to continue its generous
financial and military assistance, albeit with more effective controls and oversight.”

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China: New York public relations firm Ruder Finn has registered account executive Sydney Alcaraz of San Francisco on its $1.45 million contract with Huawei Technologies USA, the Texas-based subsidiary of the beleaguered Chinese telecommunications giant. Huawei has also retained the services of ADLAB, a wholly owned subsidiary of British advertising giant WPP, as well as technology communications company Racepoint Global as it ramps up its public relations to try to defend itself from bipartisan attacks in Washington that it poses a threat to users’ privacy and to US national security.

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Japan: The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) office in New York has registered Ryota Hiramoto as a director of its public affairs department.

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Kazakhstan: The Ministry of Justice of Kazakhstan has extended its contract with RJI Capital Corporation for $500,000 for the three months from Feb. 1 through April. The firm will “identify and engage top lobbyists, strategists, lawyers and government affairs specialists to ensure effective representation” before the US Congress, the executive branch and courts. RJI has been registered to lobby for the Central Asian country since December 2019 and signed a $3 million contract in February 2020 through the end of last year. The country is locked in a years-long, $500 million legal fight with an oil and gas investor whose petroleum operations were seized by the government in 2010.

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Marshall Islands: New York nonprofit advisory group Independent Diplomat has registered Global Threats director Leah Wawro on its account with the Republic of the Marshall Islands. She is expected to meet with the State Department and other government offices. The group has represented the country’s mission to the United Nations since 2011, notably raising attention to the impact of global climate change on the two chains of 29 coral atolls.

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Myanmar: Washington law firm Williams & Connolly ended its representation of Myanmar’s Kanbawza Bank Limited on the eve of the Feb. 1 military coup, according to a new lobbying filing filed Feb. 7. The firm reported $27,000 in fees and expenses from the private commercial bank in the six months through February, for a total of $570,000 since it was first hired. Kanbawza retained the firm in August 2019 to provide legal services and advice in connection with “potential US legal issues and sanctions matters which may arise” out of a UN Human Rights Council report linking the bank’s parent company KBZ Group to repression against the country’s mostly Muslim Rohingya minority. Firm partners David Aufhauser and David Zinn and associate Joanna Evans had been registered on the account. Neither of the three responded to requests for comment about the timing of the termination.

Another firm, the Inle Advisory Group, terminated its registration on behalf of the bank in October 2020 after receiving a total of $80,000 in fees. Firm founder Erin Lee Murphy had registered in December 2019 to assist the bank with “[anti-money laundering regulations] and sanctions compliance, adherence to international banking standards, financial inclusion, and best practices on gender equality in the workplace as well as charitable giving through its foundation.”

South Korea: Washington law firm Arnold & Porter has renewed its contract with South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. The contract is for $360,000 for the 11 months from Feb. 1 through the end of the year, up from $330,000 previously. Arnold & Porter is tasked with helping arrange meetings with members of Congress and Joe Biden administration officials as well as providing “legal analyses of US trade and investment issues affecting the Republic of Korea and Korean companies.” The firm has represented the ministry since February 2020. Partners Lynn Fischer Fox, Kevin O’Neill, Jaehong David Park and Soo-Mi Rhee, senior counsel Charles Landgraf, managing director Gregory Louer and associate Marne Marotta are registered on the account.

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South Korea: South Korea’s largest energy company has hired a second lobbying firm as it battles allegations that it stole trade secrets from an electric car battery rival. SK Innovation has hired the Chartwell Strategy Group effective Jan. 20. Co-founder Matthew Epperly, a veteran of Democratic political campaigns, and managing director Oswaldo Palomo, a former aide to ex-Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), will lobby Congress on “general company overview for members and staff.”

Chartwell joins Covington and Burling and former Environmental Protection Agency chief Carol Browner in representing the company, which saw its stock plummet after the International Trade Commission last week banned its electric-vehicle batteries exports to the United States for 10 years after finding in favor of rival LG Energy Solution, the battery division of LG Chem, South Korea’s largest chemical company. LG Chem and its US subsidiaries LG Chem America and LG Chem Michigan in turn have retained the services of Akin Gump, Dentons US, Hogan Lovells, Mayer Brown, Miller Strategies and the Potomac Law Group.

Europe

The S-3 Group has registered digital manager Reagan Lawn as a foreign agent on its accounts with the Embassy of Italy, the Investment Corporation of Azerbaijan and the Delegation of the European Union to the United States.

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Hungary: Indiana-based law firm Barnes & Thornburg has formally deregistered as a foreign agent for Hungary effective Jan. 19. The firm had reported no payments or lobbying work for the Central European country since the fall of 2019. The Hungarian Embassy in Washington hired the firm in November 2018 for $100,000 to “assist Hungary with general governmental relations directed primarily at religious freedom and immigration issues” ahead of Prime Minister Viktor Orban‘s May 2019 visit to the White House. Hungary has come under criticism in the United States and the European Union for refusing to take in Syrian refugees and for comments accusing Jewish billionaire George Soros of being behind a plot to flood the country with Muslims. Washington-based partner Craig Burkhardt was the only registered individual on the account. In lieu of traditional lobbying, the embassy hired right-wing national security commentator David Reaboi and his Florida-based Strategic Improvisation Inc. in September 2020 for $35,000 over three months to combat negative press about the country.

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Sealand: Seattle law firm Harris Bricken Sliwoski ended its representation of the would-be Principality of Sealand on July 17, according to a late lobbying filing. The micronation claims an offshore platform in the North Sea as its territory. The firm signed an agreement for legal services including “sharing and obtaining information in furtherance of the foreign principal’s sovereignty, sovereign interests, and its acts and activities as a sovereign” in May 2019. The firm paid consultant Garner Global $8,800 in 2019 but did not disclose ever receiving any payments despite telling the Department of Justice foreign lobbying unit that “registrant has a payment plan with the foreign principal wherein payments will commence 2020.05.09.” The only political contact listed was a telephone call with Thomas Fine, the director of services and investment at the Office of the US Trade Representative, to discuss “the process and requirements” for accession to the World Trade Organization.

Middle East

Morocco: FGH Holdings — previously the Glover Park Groupceased providing services to Morocco’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation on Jan. 28. The firm had served as a subcontractor to JPC Strategies in 2018-2019 and again starting in May 2020. The latest contract was for $10,000 per month for one year but ended more than three months early. JPC Strategies was launched in 2017 by James Christoferson, a former deputy chief of staff to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).  A trio of firms — SGR Government Relations and Lobbying, Iron Bridge Strategies and Neale Creek — remain registered as subcontractors to JPC while ThirdCircle lobbies directly for the embassy. Morocco has long spent millions of dollars a year on lobbying, notably for US recognition of its claims on the Western Sahara, which the Donald Trump administration acquiesced to last year in exchange for Morocco’s normalization with Israel. Meanwhile Morocco’s largest company, phosphate mining giant OCP, has hired a bevvy of lobbying and public relations firms to stave off threatened tariffs over alleged government subsidies.

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Qatar: Ogilvy Government Relations has registered Moses Mercado and Karissa Willhite, both principals in the firm’s Washington office, to work on Ogilvy’s new $240,000 contract with the Embassy of Qatar. Willhite is a former deputy chief of staff to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), while Mercado served as deputy chief of staff to then-House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.). The year-long contract is for “advice and assistance” to the embassy for “congressional liaison and government affairs.” The firm previously represented the embassy as a subcontractor to Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough from June 2018 until February 2019. The contract comes as Qatar continues to lobby on foreign policy priorities at odds with those of its Arab Gulf rivals Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates even after they lifted their years-long embargo on the country last month.

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