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Ecuador VP candidate hires lobby firm for pre-election visit to Washington; Kazakhstan civil society lobbies on anti-corruption sanctions; former Lockheed Martin exec to be paid $80,000 to lobby on Turkey’s F-35 participation : Wednesday’s Daily Digest

Ecuador VP candidate hires lobby firm for pre-election visit to Washington

Ecuadorian presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso campaigns on March 26, 2017 in Quito / By Fotos593 via Shutterstock

One of the vice presidential candidates in Ecuador’s 2021 election is turning to the US for COVID-19 assistance and a political boost ahead of the country’s runoff next month.

Physician-turned-politician Alfredo Borrero has tapped Washington-based consulting firm Moonlight International to help coordinate meetings during his visit to the US this week “in order to set up preliminary relationships for COVID-19 pandemic response in Ecuador,” according to Moonlight’s lobbying registration with the US Justice Department. Moonlight is representing Borrero pro bono on issues related to “public health interests of Ecuador, foreign aid and cooperation policies of private and public organizations in the US” during his trip, which began Tuesday.

Although Borrero’s trip to the US is officially focused on Ecuador’s COVID-19 response, its political optics are impossible to ignore.

Read the story here.

New lobbying filings


Ivory Coast: JWI (Jefferson Waterman International) disclosed $441,000 in payments from the government of the Ivory Coast in the six months through February. During that period the firm offered “political consulting” and “security organizational advice” to the government of President Alassane Ouattara, contacting presidency officials to “guide” the country in a “pro-western manner.” JWI has represented the country since 2010. The firm’s CEO Charles Waterman, a former CIA official and vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council, is the sole registered agent on the account.

Ivory Coast election rivals launch US lobbying war


Kazakhstan: A loose coalition of Kazakh civil society groups has hired a former congressional aide to lobby Congress and the Joe Biden administration for sanctions against corrupt actors in the central Asian country. The Coalition of Civil Society of Kazakhstan — also known as Dongelek Ystel — has retained Alexander Beckles, a former legislative director to former Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), to lobby on “democracy, stability and prosperity in the region of Kazakhstan, as well as issues of finance, including rules and governmental programs related to anti-money laundering, international sanctions, and anticorruption.” The contract is for $40,000 per month for an indefinite amount of time. This is the first time Beckles registers his firm, Alexander Beckles LLC, under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), although he registered to lobby for the governments of Burundi and Uganda as a consultant to Scribe Strategies & Advisors in 2015 and for the Embassy of Guinea as a managing director for Scribe in 2019 (Scribe’s contracts with Guinea and Uganda remain active). He was also briefly personally registered to lobby on US-Lebanese relations in 2019 on behalf of Romania-based Italian businessman Mario LaSala, a consultant to the BB Energy Trading company of London.

Beckles declined to identify who had hired him or how he had come to work with the Kazakh activists after a lobbying career focused largely on the domestic US drug industry. However the Germany-based leader of Dongelek Ystel’s foreign office, Serik Medetbekov, told Foreign Lobby Report that the coalition was formed around 18 months ago and represents a broad assembly of groups and individuals that oppose the endemic corruption fostered under former President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his successor Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. Medetbekov said money stolen from Kazakhstan has had a corrupting influence on institutions in the West and that the US and allied governments should do more to go after illicit Kazakh gains in their own countries. “We oppose the people … who worked for this regime, stole the money, ran to the West and now pretend that they are in the opposition to the regime,” Medetbekov said. “For us it’s impossible — if somebody steals money on the street in New York, police will be there in a few minutes. But other persons are breaking American law and nobody is taking care of it. This is the point.”

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Uzbekistan launches PR campaign to lift cotton boycott

Middle East

Turkey: Washington law firm Arnold & Porter has signed an $80,000 contract with former Lockheed Martin executive Stephen Williams as part of the firm’s campaign to help the Turkish defense industry rejoin the F-35 fighter jet program. Williams and his Alexandria-based firm Pentagon Strategies will “work in support of” Arnold & Porter’s contract with Ankara-based SSTEK Savunma Sanayi Teknolojiler (Defense Industry Technologies) and the Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB), the government office that manages Turkey’s defense industry. Foreign Lobby Report first reported news that Williams had registered his firm under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) on Tuesday. SSTEK hired Arnold & Porter last month to “advise on a strategy for the SSB and Turkish contractors to remain within the Joint Strike Fighter Program,” as we first reported Feb. 18. Arnold & Porter is to be paid $750,000 for six months to provide “strategic advice and outreach to US commercial partners and stakeholders in the program.”

A former regional president for continental Europe for Lockheed Martin, the stealth jet’s manufacturer, Williams is well-known within the F-35 community. he left Lockheed Martin in the summer of 2016 to become CEO of the North American subsidiary of Danish defense and aerospace company Terma, which says it makes “more than 70 mission-critical parts for the F-35” including advanced lightweight composite components and radar electronics. Williams founded Pentagon Strategies in Virginia in March 2020.

The Donald Trump administration announced in July 2019 that it had removed Turkey from the multi-nation F-35 program over the country’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems. The Pentagon has since clarified that it will continue to depend on Turkish defense contractors for key components through next year. Turkish defense officials told the Turkish military news site that the purpose of Arnold & Porter’s engagement was to ensure that Turkey’s rights are protected after it paid for delivery of four F-35 aircraft that remain in the US.

Caught our eye

Armenia: The American National Committee of America (ANCA) celebrated a lobbying win this week when Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) called on Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to negotiate a tax treaty with Armenia during Tuesday’s House Financial Services Committee hearing on the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ANCA has long call for renegotiating the existing Double Tax Treaty with Armenia, which was negotiated with the now-defunct Soviet Union and is no longer recognized by Armenia. In 2018, then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pledged to devote staff resources to exploring a new tax treaty with Armenia following a congressional letter signed by 31 House members led by Sherman and Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.).

Venezuela: Senate Foreign Relations member Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday calling for the US to end what he called the “misguided” ban on diesel fuel swaps with Venezuela, the Associated Press reports. The wire service points out that the letter follows heavy lobbying by Spain’s Repsol SA and Italy’s Eni SpA, both of which carried out swaps with Venezuela’s state-owned oil company.

Correction: This post was updated on March 25, 2021 to reflect Alexander Beckles past lobbying activity.