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, who co-own the firm via Shuler Family Investments and JLMVA Consulting.
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.
The firm will assist the embassy with “congressional liaison and government affairs, including advocacy before federal officials in Congress and the Executive Branch.” The contract was signed by Murphy and Hamad al-Muftah, the deputy chief of mission at the Qatari embassy.
The embassy and ISG did not respond to requests for comment.
The new hire comes as Manchin has emerged as one of the most powerful lawmakers in Washington as a centrist Democrat who can cast the deciding vote in the 50-50 Senate. The senator also serves as chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and sits on the powerful Armed Services and Appropriations panels, all of which play a role in crafting legislation that can impact energy-rich Qatar.
In his bio for ISG, Rogers presents himself in a similar vein, writing that he was “well-known throughout his career on Capitol Hill for his ability to reach across the aisle to build coalitions and achieve solutions.”
ISG is Qatar’s fourth lobbying hire since Biden’s election as the influence war against regional rivals Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates rages on even after their embargo against Doha ended in January. Since then the embassy has also signed on with veteran Democratic lobbyist Robert Crowe‘s new firm, RB Crowe, and with Ogilvy Government Relations, while Qatari lobby shop Nelson Mullins has added Ralph Nurnberger and his firm Nurnberger & Associates as a subcontractor. The Qatari government has another two dozen other firms or so on its payroll and spent almost $10 million on US lobbying in 2019, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
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In an interview with Foreign Lobby Report at the time of Nurnberger’s hiring, former Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), a top lobbyist with Nelson Mullins, made it clear the intra-Gulf lobbying spat was far from over. A supporter of political Islamist groups with close ties to Iran, Qatar continues to feud with its neighbors on everything from returning to the 2015 nuclear deal to its support for the Al-Jazeera news channel.
“Qatar isn’t going to change its basic ideology, which is more in tune with Europe and the United States [under Biden] particularly than its neighbors’,” Moran said. “There’s going to be continuing friction in that way.”