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Turkey lobbies to get back in F-35 program; report lays bare $31 million in South Korean lobbying; faith groups lobby Biden to rescind Cuba terror designation: Thursday’s Daily Digest

Turkey lobbies to get back in F-35 program

Photo via jgorzynik / Shutterstock

The Turkish defense industry has hired one of Washington’s most prestigious law firms to try to remain in the F-35 jet fighter program after the Donald Trump administration said it would kick Turkey out two years ago over its purchase of Russian air defense systems.

Ankara-based SSTEK Savunma Sanayi Teknolojiler (Defense Industry Technologies) has hired Arnold & Porter for $750,000 for strategic advice and outreach to US commercial partners and stakeholders in the program. The contract was effective Feb. 1 and lasts six months.

SSTEK is wholly owned by the Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB), the government office that manages Turkey’s defense industry.

Read the story here.

New report lays bare $31 million in South Korean lobbying

The Center for International Policy‘s Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative has a new report out today on the massive amounts of money US ally South Korea spends on lobbying and public relations firms to influence US policymakers and public opinion.

Click on the image to read the report

The South Korean government and Korean organizations reported spending $31.1 million on firms registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) in 2019, according to the center, just behind the $32 million disclosed by Japan.

The money went to 23 different registered foreign agents. Together these firms reported $1.65 million in political contributions.

The report reveals a surge in lobbying of national security staffers in the second half of 2019 following President Donald Trump‘s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and deteriorating relations between Seoul and Tokyo at the time. At the time South Korea was threatening to leave the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), an intelligence sharing pact signed in 2016, following Japan’s removal of South Korea from its list of preferred trading partners.

“With nearly two dozen firms working on their behalf, the South Korean government and
other entities in South Korea attempted to exert outsized influence over U.S. foreign policy
in 2019,” the report states. “The contacts conducted in August 2019 and later were especially notable because of the emergence of the trade dispute with Japan and subsequent attempt to leave GSOMIA.”

“South Korea has been one of the top spenders on FARA registrants for years,” Center for International Policy director and report author Ben Freeman told Foreign Lobby Report. “Yet, they often fly under the radar as people (myself included) tend to focus on malign influence coming from places like China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. But, it’s important to take a look at what our democratic allies are doing too, especially when those allies are lobbying for things like hosting more than 28,000 US troops on their soil or buying cutting-edge U.S. military weapons. With this report then, we’re hoping to give the public a chance to look behind the curtain and see how major U.S. foreign policy decisions are affected by South Korea’s lobbyists.”

Listen to our Nov. 2020 interview with Ben Freeman on our Influencers podcast co-hosted by Foreign Lobby Report and the LEVICK communications agency:

South Korea hires former lawmakers Royce, Begich amid tensions with US over China, N. Korea

New in lobbying

Brownstein Hyatt has registered former US diplomat Samantha Carl-Yoder to its accounts with the ministry of foreign affairs of Saudi Arabia, the government of Cambodia and the embassies of Egypt and South Korea in Washington. Carl-Yoder joined the firm this month as a policy director after an almost two-decade career with the State Department. She served as a foreign service officer from 2001 to 2018, notably serving in Indonesia, Peru, Myanmar and Brazil and as chief of staff for the Bureau of Energy Resources and for then-Under Secretary for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon in 2017-2018, She was most recently vice-president for LNG marketing and international government affairs for Houston-based natural gas company Tellurian.

Egypt assembles bipartisan powerhouse lobbying team for post-Trump era
South Korea hires former lawmakers Royce, Begich amid tensions with US over China, N. Korea

More than 70 non-governmental organizations, faith groups and academic institutions on Wednesday urged the Joe Biden administration to drop his predecessor’s sanctions on the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The statement was notably signed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Amnesty International and Human Right Watch. President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order taking aim at court officials on June 11. The Treasury Department followed up on Sept. 2 by freezing any assets Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and Phakiso Mochochoko, the court’s head of jurisdiction, may have in the United States and restricting their travel to the US. The World Court has retained a US law firm to fight the sanctions, Foreign Lobby Report first reported Oct. 16.

“There is an immediate need to act to reset US policy regarding the ICC,” the groups wrote in a statement. “Most urgently, we are alarmed by recent calls for the US government to maintain or even expand the sanctions put into place by the Trump administration in June 2020 currently targeting the court’s work.”

World Court retains US law firm to fight Trump sanctions

The Washington-based World Shipping Council hired Pikes Associates effective Jan. 15 to lobby on “international shipping and reducing green house gas emissions.” Firm founder Jeffrey Pike, a former chief of staff on the now-defunct US House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, and director of government relations Jennifer Place will lobby on the account.


Cuba: Seventeen faith-based organizations wrote to President Joe Biden on Thursday to urge him to rescind the Donald Trump administration’s trade and travel restrictions on Cuba, rebuild the US diplomatic presence in the country and remove the communist island from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. The Trump administration undid many of President Barack Obama‘s overtures to Cuba and put the island back on the terrorism blacklist last month in one of its final actions.

“We advocated for and strongly supported the Obama administration’s groundbreaking US-Cuba policy changes,” the letter states. “While our two governments have significant disagreements, these are best addressed through respectful dialogue and engagement. Reinstating these Obama era policies at this time is critical.” Signers include the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Friends Committee on National Legislation and the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Cuba engagement advocate joins Biden transition

Haiti: Mercury Public Affairs has registered senior associate Miran Hassan on its contract with the office of Haitian President Jovenel Moise. Mercury is lobbying alongside the Miami-based Latin America Advisory Group to convince US policymakers that Moise is entitled to another year in office even as some diaspora groups push for his immediate departure. The firm reported receiving $506,000 from its parent company Mercury International UK for its Haiti work last year.

Haiti lobby battles diaspora over support for embattled president

Middle East

Iran: The opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran paid former US Special Envoy for Nuclear Nonproliferation Robert Joseph $60,000 in the six months through January. Joseph met with then-US special representative for Iran Elliott Abrams at the State Department on Dec. 11 but hasn’t reported any political activities since Joe Biden won the presidency.

Another Iran group hires regime change lobbyist