New York-based global strategic communications firm Finsbury Glover Hering has registered to lobby for Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky‘s political party as the country normalizes ties with the Joe Biden administration and the new Congress following four years of rocky relations under President Donald Trump.
FGH Holdings — the firm born of last month’s merger between Finsbury, The Glover Park Group and Hering Schuppener — signed a $50,000-a-month contract on Feb. 2 through the end of the year with the Transatlantic Dialogue and Engagement Center, a new think tank in Kyiv. The stated goal of the lobbying is to “advance Ukraine’s relations with the United States.” This is FGH’s first registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
While the contract was signed with the Transatlantic center, FGH’s lobbying disclosure describes it as the think tank arm of Ukraine’s Sluga Narodu (Servant of the People) party, named after the hit TV series that made Zelensky a celebrity. The party won 245 of 450 seats in parliament in the 2019 election.
“The Transatlantic Dialogue and Engagement Center (TDEC) seeks to advance Ukraine’s relations with the United States, European Union and other
democratic nations,” the lobbying filing states. “TDEC operates in close cooperation with the Sluga Narodu Political Party to facilitate dialogue, exchanges and other interactions between members of the Ukrainian parliament and their counterparts and other officials in partner governments and multilateral organizations.”
FGH will provide “government relations and strategic counsel and support for the Transatlantic Dialogue and Engagement Center and the Sluga Narodu Political Party to facilitate dialogue, exchanges and other interactions between members of the Ukrainian parliament and their counterparts and other officials in the United States and multilateral organizations,” according to its lobbying filing. “This may include lobbying, promotion and preparation and dissemination of informational materials.”
Ukrainian corporate records indicate the center was founded less than two months ago, on Dec. 29, 2020. Its director, Stanislav Kostiuchenko, signed the contract with FGH.
Neither Kostiuchenko nor FGH responded to requests for comment.
The lobbying push comes as Kyiv is seeking to restore traditional institutional connections in its relationship with Washington after four years during which Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani helped run US policy via private relationships with a host of Ukrainian actors. The former US president’s unorthodox approach turned Ukraine into a political football in the US capital, culminating with the US House of Representatives voting to impeach him for allegedly leveraging military aid to Ukraine in exchange for political favors.
Andrew Mac, the head of Ukrainian law firm Asters‘s Washington office who advises Zelensky pro bono, told Foreign Lobby Report that the executive branch wasn’t involved with the registration and that it appeared to be an initiative from the Sluga Narodu party. The party is led by parliament members David Arakhamia and Oleksandr Kornienko following the November 2019 resignation of Dmytro Razumkov following his election as parliament speaker.
“I think they want to have their own relations with Congress, which actually I think is healthy,” Mac said. “On the parliamentary level, I could see a reason they would need to have that type of help here. I don’t think it will be negative for Ukraine, I think it will be positive.”
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Mac listed national security, military support for Ukraine’s ongoing conflict with Russia and the country’s integration into NATO as key areas for coordination with the US. He added that the US can also help Ukraine fight entrenched corruption.
“Ukraine is a country that doesn’t have the vast resources the US has to investigate financial crimes,” Mac said. “So there is still a hope that the US will take the lead on it.”
FGH senior vice presidents Lindsay Plack and Tod Preston are registered to lobby on the account. Both previously worked for the US Global Leadership Coalition and before that with lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee, former Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.) in Plack’s case and former Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) in Preston’s.