Latest filings

Ethiopia lobbies Congress on Tigray conflict; Hillary aide, Politico editor among team lobbying for jailed Georgia opposition leader; New York law firm ends Russia work: Friday’s Daily Digest

New lobbying filings

Africa

Ethiopia: The Ethiopian Embassy’s new lobbying firm has begun reaching out to Capitol Hill about the conflict in the northern Tigray region, lobbying disclosure records show. Venable helped set up a call on Wednesday between Ambassador Fitsum Arega and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who sits on both the foreign relations committee and the Appropriations panel that controls foreign aid (the US government has requested $278 million in assistance for the country for FY 2021). In a follow-up email with Van Hollen’s staff, Venable policy analyst Loren Aho shared a statement from the office of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed refuting accusations by the US government and others that Addis-Ababa has impeded humanitarian and media access to the region and insisting that independent investigations are ongoing. Earlier this month, Aho shared a statement from Ahmed with Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Ben Cardin (D-Md.) defending the government’s conflict with forces aligned with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. The conflict has reportedly killed more than 50,000 people since November and sparked calls for an international investigation.

The embassy hired Venable for $35,000 per month on Feb. 1 as advocacy groups press for sanctions. Venable replaces Barnes & Thornburg, whose lobbying last year focused entirely on the dispute with Egypt over the Ethiopia’s new hydroelectric dam on the Nile. The dam appears to have now taken a back seat to the Tigray conflict on Ethiopia’s list of lobbying priorities even as Cairo doubles down on the issue.

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Ghana: Washington-based KRL International helped set up virtual meetings between US officials and the Ghana Ministry of Finance last month to help facilitate the transition to the Joe Biden administration, a new lobbying disclosure shows. US participants included outgoing Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, US Ambassador Stephanie Sullivan, Export-Import Bank Chairwoman Kimberly Reed and officials from the US International Development Finance Corporation, the Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the Treasury Department. The west African country is in the midst of a five-year, $498 million MCC compact focused on reforming the country’s electricity distribution system.

During the six months through January, KRL also reached out to an array of US policymakers, investors, donors and international financial institutions to help address the health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Areas of focus included “debt forgiveness, emergency assistance, addressing supply chain challenges for medications and medical supplies.” The firm notably reported contacts with John Tomaszewski, the Africa policy adviser for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s then-Chairman Jim Risch (R-Idaho), as well as staff for Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), the top Democrat on the committee’s Africa panel. The firm also contacted then-Under Secretary of Treasury for International Affairs Brent McIntosh and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Treasury for Africa Eric Meyer as well as the director for Africa at the Commerce Department, Fred Stewart. KRL International is a boutique Washington firm led by K. Riva Levinson that specializes in sub-Saharan Africa. The firm has represented Ghana since 2017 and is paid $25,000 per month for its services.

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Liberia: KRL International reached out to numerous US officials on behalf of the government of Liberia during the six months through January as the firm advocated for emergency assistance to a country still recovering from the Ebola epidemic of 2016. These include key members of the foreign affairs and appropriations panels. The firm’s founder K. Riva Levinson traveled to Liberia in October and met with the US Agency for International Development’s Liberia mission director Sara Walter and the US Embassy’s deputy chief of mission Alyson Grunder to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and other matters. The firm has represented Minister of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism Eugene Lenn Nagbe since January 2020 with the goal of increasing donor funding and direct foreign investment. The contract is for $20,000 per month but KRL did not disclose any payments from the ministry during the most recent period.

Americas

Dominican Republic: Former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) discussed US ties with the Dominican Republic with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.); House Foreign Affairs Committee Western Hemisphere Chairman Albio Sires (D-N.J.); Reps. John Katko (R-N.Y.), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) and Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.); and Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon during the six months through January. A Florida Republican who served nine terms before retiring in 2011, Diaz-Balart is the brother of sitting Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.). His Coral Gables-based lobbying firm Western Hemisphere Strategies has been lobbying for President Luis Abinader since October as a subcontractor to Vision Americas. His firm is paid $20,000 per month. Former Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) is also lobbying for the Dominican Republic via Gray Global Advisors.

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Asia

Taiwan: Former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) met with several lawmakers on behalf of Taiwan during the six months through January, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Senate Armed Services Committee member Rick Scott (R-Fla.), a China hawk who has called for stripping China of the 2022 Winter Olympics. Diaz-Balart also communicated met with several House members including Reps. Albio Sires (D-N.J.), John Katko (R-N.Y.), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.), and Paul Mitchell (R-Mich.), who retired last year. Diaz-Balart’s firm, Western Hemisphere Strategies, has been lobbying for the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), Taiwan’s de facto embassy in Washington, since 2012. The firm receives $18,000 per month for its services.

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Europe

Georgia: Washington lobbying firm Cogent Strategies has registered a bipartisan team of seven policy and media experts on its new contract with Georgia’s opposition United National Movement. The firm signed a $150,000 lobbying contract with party leader Nika Melia just a week before his arrest on Tuesday. Lobbying on the contract are:

  • Managing Director David Adams, a former assistant secretary of State for legislative affairs under Hillary Clinton and staff director on the House Foreign Affairs Committee;
  • Managing Director John Ward Anderson, the former editor of Politico magazine;
  • Managing Director William Bohlen, a former spokesman for the German Marshall Fund;
  • Associate Erin Dunne ;
  • Managing Director Randall Gerard, who heads Cogent’s outreach to Republican leadership;
  • Managing Director Andrew Kauders, a former senior adviser to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.); and
  • Managing Director Shellie Purvis, a former member of the executive team at the US mission to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
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Russia: New York law firm BurgherGray terminated its registration on behalf of Moscow law firm Ivanyan and Partners on Nov. 1, according to a new lobbying filing. The Russian firm founded by Khristofor Ivanyan signed a $125,000-a-quarter contract with California law firm Wilson Keadjian & Browndorf for open source research January 2019 but it was only disclosed with the US Department of Justice in February 2020. BurgherGray took over Wilson Keadjian’s Washington office — and the contract with Ivanyan — when the California firm was dissolved last year.

Middle East

Morocco: Cornerstone Government Affairs has registered an ex-chief of staff to former Appropriations Commerce panel Chairman John Culberson (R-Texas) on its account with Moroccan phosphate mining giant OCP. Tony Essalih, a director and principal in the firm’s flagship Texas office in Houston, will “coordinate and direct public relations campaign regarding countervailing duty investigations by the US government into phosphate fertilizer imports.” Cornerstone is one of five lobbying and public relations firms hired by OCP to help stave off threatened tariffs after the Tampa-based Mosaic Company accused Morocco and Russia of subsidizing their phosphate fertilizer industry through tax breaks and other means. OCP denies the allegations.

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Qatar: Washington law firm Ott, Bielitzki & O’Neill disclosed several calls with the US military attache in Doha, Col. David Keesey, regarding “defense procurement” on behalf Qatari-owned aerospace company Barzan Aeronautical during the six months through January. The firm was paid $3.9 million in fees and expenses for its work on behalf of the company, most of which is not lobbying-related, during the period. Barzan is building spy planes in Charleston, South Carolina. It has registered as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) because its parent company Barzan Holdings is owned by the Qatari Ministry of Defense. 

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