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$2 million Myanmar lobbying contract raises legal questions; Ukraine taps lobbyist to cement SpaceX deal for satellite launch; AIPAC gets bipartisan support on Iran: Tuesday’s Daily Digest

$2 million Myanmar lobbying contract raises legal questions

A lobbyist for Myanmar’s military junta has formally registered his $2 million agreement with the country’s sanctioned defense minister, raising questions about the legality of the effort.

Foreign Lobby Report first reported Friday that former Israeli intelligence officer Ari Ben-Menashe had inked a deal with Defense Minister Mya Tun Oo as the Southeast Asian country faces global blowback following the Feb. 1 military coup against the civilian government. The work to be carried out by Ben-Menashe’s Montreal-based firm Dickens & Madson includes presenting the military regime as a bulwark against Chinese influence in the region and working with Gulf Arab countries to repatriate the Muslim Rohingyas, almost a million of whom have fled persecution by Myanmar’s armed forces.

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Ukraine taps lobbyist to cement SpaceX deal for satellite launch

Ukraine has hired the CEO of a Florida-based solar energy company to advance President Volodymyr Zelenksky‘s plans to launch a satellite into space.

Vice Prime Minister Oleg Urusky has retained Enerkon Solar International CEO Benjamin Ballout to conduct “pro bono commercial lobby support” in the US, according to new lobbying filings. The contract is with New York-based Diplomatic Trade Ltd., which is affiliated with Enerkon and also run by Ballout.

The firm will help organize “official and also commercial meetings” for Urusky during his visit to the United States later this month, including with Elon Musk‘s SpaceX, Ballout told Foreign Lobby Report in an email. Urusky heads the Ministry of Strategic Industries, a new state office established by Zelensky last summer to focus on industrial development, defense and high-tech industries.

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New lobbying filings

Americas

Bahamas: The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism has registered as foreign agents four employees who market and promote the islands. Sales manager Sanique Culmer, sales and marketing specialist Jonathan Lord, sales manager Kendy McPhee-Ferguson and senior marketing representative Phylia Shivers will conduct “sales calls, telemarketing, seminars, trade shows, social media” and more.

Asia

Japan: Ogilvy has a new $143,000 work contract with the Embassy of Japan in Washington that lasts from Feb. 19 to March 31. The firm will help the embassy procure and display three sculptures through the National Cherry Blossom Festival organization and promote US-Japanese relations through its social media accounts and press materials. Ogilvy has worked for the embassy since February 2020.

Middle East

Israel: The main pro-Israel lobby American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) declared victory on Tuesday when 140 House members — 70 from each party — signed on to a congressional letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the Joe Biden administration to pursue a comprehensive deal with Iran that covers not just nuclear activity but the country’s ballistic program and so-called “malign behavior” in the region through its support for proxies. The lobby group pointed out this was the first bipartisan congressional letter on Iran since the 2020 election, calling it a “critical demonstration of bipartisan unity on this important issue.”

AIPAC is also currently lobbying on a letter from Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) condemning the International Criminal Court’s opening of an investigation into potential Israeli and Palestinian war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza.

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Saudi Arabia: New York public relations firm Ruder Finn has registered creative director Pamela Pizzaro on its account with Saudi Arabia’s Neom Company, which is building a $500 billion futuristic megacity in the desert. Neom hired Ruder Finn for $1.7 million in June 2020 to develop a website and social media strategy for the megacity, including social media campaigns “related to the promotion of Neom as a city of the future.” The project is a key part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman‘s 2030 Vision to transform the country’s oil-dependent economy. Neom also has a multi-million dollar contract with New York CEO advisory firm Teneo to create a “strategic positioning plan” for Neom CEO Nadhmi al-Nasr and handle crisis management and communications.

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Turkey: Mercury Public Affairs sent congratulatory letters last week to Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack from the chairman of the Turkey-US Business Council (TAIK) following their Senate confirmation. The letters from Mehmet Ali Yalcindag highlighted the importance of bilateral trade as the US reduces its economic reliance on China and both countries bounce back from COVID-19’s economic hardships. “The importance of the long-lasting economic partnership between our two countries has only become more apparent since the start of the coronavirus pandemic,” Yalcindag wrote in both letters. He added that Turkish and Turkish-American businesses could play a key role in President Joe Biden‘s economic recovery plan.

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