Latest filings

Qatar hires ex-chief of staff to Senate power broker Manchin; Azerbaijan renews $500,000 contract with BGR; Biden admin revokes Gertler’s Africa mining license after advocacy campaign: Monday’s Daily Digest

Qatar hires former chief of staff to Senate power broker Manchin

Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani attends a visit from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Doha, Qatar on March 20, 2018 / Shutterstock

Qatar has hired a former chief of staff to Senate power broker Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) as the Gulf emirate continues to ramp up its lobbying for the Joe Biden era.

The Embassy of Qatar has signed a year-long, $30,000-a-month contract with Integrated Strategy Group (ISG), according to a new lobbying filing. ISG was co-founded in 2018 by former Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) and James Murphy, the national political director for Donald Trump‘s 2016 presidential campaign.

ISG consultant Hayden Rogers is the only person registered as a foreign agent on the account for the time being. Rogers served as Shuler’s chief of staff before joining Manchin’s office from 2013 to 2015 and ran for Congress himself in 2012, winning the Democratic primary but losing in the general election to future Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows.

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New lobbying filings

Africa

Democratic Republic of the Congo: The State Department has re-imposed human rights sanctions on Israeli mining magnate Dan Gertler‘s African business operations after an advocacy campaign from Congolese civil society groups and international NGOs. The campaign was led by The Sentry, which first revealed that the Donald Trump administration had granted Gertler a license in its final days after a lobbying campaign by former FBI director Louis Freeh and Trump lawyer Alan Dershowitz.

“The license previously granted to Mr. Gertler is inconsistent with America’s strong foreign policy interests in combatting corruption around the world, specifically including U.S. efforts to counter corruption and promote stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC),” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

Americas

Argentina: Argentina lobby firm Arnold & Porter is advocating for increased US trade with South America as a counter-weight to Chinese influence. The firm asked lawmakers on the Senate Finance Committee to press President Joe Biden‘s top trade pick on her priorities for the region during her confirmation hearing last month, according to a new lobbying filing. The committee cleared US Trade Representative nominee Katherine Tai last week, setting up a vote in the full Senate.

“No doubt, a lot of US trade policy will be focused on addressing China’s trade abuses and restoring the leadership of the United States,” the firm wrote in a list of potential USTR confirmation hearing questions. “Part of that response depends on strong trade relations with our allies — especially those allies in Central and South America, where China is working hard to increase its economic influence and displace the United States.”

The Embassy of Argentina signed a  $1.932 million contract with Argentina’s Ministry of International Trade and Foreign Investment in May 2020. Lobbyists on the contract include former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon and Raul Herrera, a former general counsel to the Inter-American Investment Corporation. Arnold & Porter also hired Latina lobbyist Cristina Antelo and her firm Ferox Strategies as a subcontractor for $110,000 in January.

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Asia

Azerbaijan: The Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Washington has renewed its contract with BGR Government Affairs for 2021. The contract is for $40,000 per month ($480,000 for the year), the same rate as previously. BGR has represented the embassy since 2017. Stellar Jay Communications and the BGR subcontractor Baker Donelson also represent the embassy despite pressure from the Armenian diaspora to drop Azerbaijan and its ally Turkey following last year’s conflict with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. Meanwhile the S-3 Group and Portland PR are representing an Azerbaijani company, the Investment Corporation LLC, that the Armenian diaspora insists is a “thinly veiled front for the Government of Azerbaijan through a proxy shell corporation.”

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Bangladesh: Blue Star Strategies stopped representing the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party on Feb. 1 after the right-wing party was “unable to pay monies owed,” according to a new lobbying filing. Blue Star signed a $35,000-a-month contract with the party ahead of elections in December 2018 to design and implement a “public awareness campaign in the United States and Europe to promote the goals of the BNP” (the party won six seats out of 300 in the elections despite having 13 % of the vote). The firm had not reported any payments or political activities on behalf of the party since 2019. Blue Star CEO Karen Tramontano was registered on the account along with General Counsel Jesica Dobbins Lindgren, Senior Director Jeremiah Baronberg and associate Tamar Gegechkori. The firm’s consulting work for Ukrainian energy company Burisma made headlines during the 2020 presidential campaign after the release of emails showing Tramontano cited Hunter Biden‘s role on the company’s board to try to score a meeting with the State Department.

Japan: The office of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) in New York has registered Mariko Ohde as director of its Information Technology Department.

Europe

Bulgaria: The lobbying campaign to highlight Bulgaria’s democratic backsliding is showing results. Last week the leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and ranking member James Risch (R-Idaho), issued a joint statement warning that “persistent corruption, declining media freedom, politicization of the judiciary, and other threats to the rule of law pose serious challenges to the US-Bulgaria bilateral relationship.”

Foreign Lobby Report has since learned that the statement followed a Feb. 22 conference call with about a dozen House and Senate foreign affairs staff with former US envoys to Bulgaria Jim Pardew and Rod Moore ahead of April 4 elections in the country. The call was organized by Marshall Harris, whose Alexandria Group International is lobbying on behalf of Bulgarian business owners battling criminal charges they insist are trumped up. “I was impressed that there was so much congressional interest in Bulgaria’s decline and need for reform and by the motivation of the staffers, some of whom would like to travel there to observe the elections,” Harris said.

Middle East

Jordan: West Wing Writers did not disclose any payments or work on public relations behalf of the Jordanian embassy in Washington during the six months through February but Managing Partner Vinca Lafleur told Foreign Lobby Report that the firm remains registered as a foreign agent of the embassy. Lafleur is registered on the account along with director Casey Davis-Van Atta and senior writer Annie Farber. Firm Principal Kate Childs Graham left the firm in January.

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