Latest filings

Former Rep. Connie Mack joins growing lobbying push on Ethiopia conflict; Indian Sikh separatists hire Democratic lobbying firm; Mercury renews $1 million contract with Turkey business council: Monday’s Daily Digest

Former Rep. Connie Mack joins growing lobbying push on Ethiopia conflict

Protesters demonstrate against the military conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray province in Washington, DC on Nov. 9, 2020 / By Phil Pasquini via Shutterstock

A former congressman from Florida and an Ethiopian-American advocacy group in northern Virginia have joined the growing chorus of voices lobbying for US action as violence continues to ravage Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region.

Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) is lobbying on “support for US humanitarian assistance to Ethiopia” via Black Diamond Strategies on behalf of JM International, a real estate development and petroleum distribution company based in northern Virginia. Black Diamond’s registration was effective Dec. 16 but was only made public today.

Meanwhile the Tigray Center for Information and Communication, a humanitarian group based in Alexandria, Virginia, has hired policy and advocacy consulting firm Von Batten-Montague-York to help with its mission of securing aid for the Tigray region and convince the Joe Biden administration to keep the pressure on the government in Addis Ababa to end hostilities and withdraw.

Read the story here.

New lobbying filings

Former congressional aide Sean Callahan, now a senior policy adviser with Brownstein Hyatt, has registered on five of the firm’s accounts with foreign sovereign clients. A former deputy chief of staff to Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and to former Rep. Mark Takai (D-Hawaii), Callahan will lobby for the governments of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Cambodia and South Korea and for Liberia’s ship registry, Virginia-based LICR LLC.

Callahan told Politico in an interview earlier this month that “clients are increasingly eager to squeeze their priorities into what has become one of the few reliable legislative vehicles, the must-pass annual defense authorization bill.” Hirono is a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee with jurisdiction over the bill.

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Angola: Squire Patton Boggs reached out to staffers for Reps. Maria Salazar (R-Fla.) and Danny Davis (D-Ill.) on behalf of the Angolan government to encourage the lawmakers to express their support for the work being done by Sun Africa, a renewable energy company based in Chicago and Miami that is helping build the largest solar energy project in sub-Saharan Africa.


India: Democratic government affairs firm Blue Star Strategies has registered to lobby for a New York non-governmental organization that supports the secession of Punjab from India. CEO Karen Tramontano is lobbying for Sikhs for Justice to “raise awareness of the treatment of the Sikh community in India and efforts by the Sikh-American diaspora in the U.S. to draw attention to these issues,” according to the firm’s registration under the domestic Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA). The group was founded and is primarily headed by lawyer Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. The Indian government banned the group in 2019 and designated Pannun a terrorist last year for promoting secessionism in his bid to create an independent Khalistan. The lobbying registration comes as the Indian government has reportedly asked the US Department of Justice for assistance regarding the group’s advocacy, including its support for the massive farmer protests that have partly paralyzed the country for months.

Former Rep. Robert Livingston (R-La.) and his former chief of staff J. Allen Martin briefly lobbied on behalf of Sikhs for Justice last year regarding the “intimidation and harassment of US citizens of Sikh ethnicity” by Indian authorities. The Livingston Group disclosed getting paid $10,000 between Feb. 12 and the registration’s termination just 17 days later.

Japan: New York advertising agency Ogilvy has registered five people on its account with the Embassy of Japan in Washington to provide public relations services for the 2021 Cherry Blossom Festival:

Kazakhstan: Mercury Public Affairs has renewed its subcontracting agreement with Los Angeles law firm Latham & Watkins on behalf of the Ministry of Justice of Kazakhstan for the 2021 calendar year. The firm is to be paid $20,000 per month for “government relations and strategic consulting and management services,” down from $30,000 per month previously. Mercury has worked on the account since 2018.

Disclosure of the renewal comes days after APCO Worldwide signed a three-month, $120,000 subcontracting agreement with Anglo-Australian law firm Herbert Smith Freehills for “strategic communications services within and outside of the United States to assist it and other counsel representing the foreign principal in connection with legal proceedings in the United States and other jurisdictions.” The firms are part of a team of law and public relations firms helping the Central Asian nation in a $500 million legal fight with Moldovan businessman Anatolie Stati. The two parties have been battling in US and European courts for years over Kazakhstan’s seizure of Stati’s petroleum operations in 2010.

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Germany: ​AGA Service Company, a US affiliate of German insurance company Allianz SE, has hired Arent Fox to lobby on “travel insurance issues.” Former Rep. Philip English (R-Penn.) is registered to lobby on the account along with Jon Bouker, a former chief counsel to Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).

Middle East

Turkey: Mercury Public Affairs has renewed its $1 million-a-year contract with the Turkey-US Business Council (TAIK) for the 2021 calendar year. The renewal comes after Mercury dropped its $1 million-a-year contract with the Turkish government last fall amid pressure from the Armenian diaspora over Ankara’s support for Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Mercury has represented TAIK since 2018 and provides “strategic public relations, government relations, and business consulting and management services … supporting the advancement of bilateral relations and understanding,” according to its lobbying disclosure. The firm has notably helped position Turkey as an alternative trade partner to China and a potential customer for Louisiana’s natural gas. Former Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) is one of the key lobbyists on the account.

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United Arab Emirates: The Camstoll Group has registered counterterrorism analyst Rana Armanous as a foreign agent on its contract with Abu Dhabi-owned Outlook Energy Investments to provide “research on issues pertaining to illicit financial activity.” Led by several former US Treasury Department officials, the Camstoll Group has been paid millions of dollars in part to raise concerns about alleged financial support to terrorist groups by UAE rival Qatar. Camstoll has been registered to represent Outlook since 2012. This is Armanous’ first registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).