Latest filings

Mercury signs with new unity government in Libya; Qatar picks up former senator; Burmese junta lobbyist scores CNN tour: Friday’s Daily Digest

New lobbying filings

Africa

Liberia: The Atlanta-based ANC Global-Inc. raised $41,000 for the opposition Alternative National Congress of Liberia in the six months through October, according to a belated lobbying filing. The organization registered in 2019 as a foreign agent dealing with ANC Liberia chairman Daniel Naatehn, the only member of the party to have won a seat in the country’s Senate. Coca-Cola‘s former top executive for Africa, Alexander Cummings, is the party’s standard bearer and won just over 7 % of the vote in the country’s 2017 general election. Contributors to the US organization include former Liberian ambassador to the United States Rachel Gbenyon-Diggs, who now lives in Nashville.

Nigeria: Mercury Public Affairs has terminated its representation of Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), as of March 31. The firm had represented the group advocating for independence for Nigeria’s predominantly Christian southeast since October 2019. The engagement was for $85,000 per month but Mercury only disclosed $254,000 in payments with the US Department of Justice for all of last year. The termination comes one month after Kanu hired a Washington firm led by a lobbyist for the country’s former military dictatorship and a retired US government official who helped put away Liberian President Charles Taylor. BW Global Group partners Jeffrey Birrell and Alan White are to be paid $750,000 through February 2022 to lobby Congress and the State Department on the “promotion of human rights and democracy” in Nigeria.

Birrell told Foreign Lobby Report that his firm was building a case for sanctions against federal officials in Nigeria amid escalating violence between Kanu’s group and federal police. “The human rights situation in Nigeria for all minorities and those with views contrary to the [federal government] is indeed worsening in both scale and frequency,” Birrell said. “To build [US government] support for the IPOB’s call for human rights assistance and support, we are building fact-based cases against those in the [Nigerian government] who can be identified and sanctioned for their command responsibility for their crimes. This effort is a process but it will build the foundation on which accountability and international policies are based.”

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Americas

Brazil/US: The US section of the Brazil-US Business Council paid the Altrius Group $10,000 in the first quarter of 2021 to lobby on “promotion of US-Brazil trade and investment and negotiation of bilateral agreements.” William Morley, a former general counsel to former Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, lobbied both chambers of Congress on the issue. Altrius has represented the trade group since 2010. The Donald Trump administration struck a limited trade deal with the government of President Jair Bolsonaro last October.

Guatemala: The Guatemala-based Central American Sugar Association paid the Altrius Group $15,000 in the first quarter of 2021 to lobby on implementation of the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement and the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement as well as “Central American sugar access to US consumers.” William Morley, a former general counsel to former Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, lobbied both chambers of Congress as well as the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Labor and State and the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR). Morley has represented the trade group since 2008.

Asia

Japan: Mercury Public Affairs has extended its representation of the Japanese consulate in New York for six months through September. The contract is for $8,000 a month ($48,00 total), the same rate as previously. Mercury has represented the consulate since 2018. The firm will help with “gathering information about local, state, and federal politics and analyzing and interpreting political data” in addition to assisting with “arranging meetings with elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels, formulating pitches and communications with elected officials, and presenting [the consulate’s] perspective to elected officials.”

Japan (Okinawa): Mercury Public Affairs has renewed its contract with the Okinawan government, effective March 16. The firm provides “business consulting and government relations services” on “defense and security issues,” including outreach to Congress. The firm also disclosed adding partner John Vincent “Vin” Weber, a former Republican senator from Minnesota, to the account. The Okinawan prefecture lobbies for a smaller US military footprint on its territory, putting it at odds with the central government in Tokyo. While the Mercury’s filing under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) lists an effective date of March 2021, the attached contract, for $109,500, is for the period from April 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021. The firm did not respond to a request for clarification about the discrepancy.

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Japan (Toshiba): Japanese multinational conglomerate Toshiba paid BlueWater Strategies $20,000 to lobby on “nuclear power/1-2-3 agreements, general energy and nuclear medicine” in the first quarter of 2021. Managing partner McKie Campbell and firm principals Kyle Oliver and Jason Matthews lobbied Congress, the Executive Office of the President, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the departments of State and Energy. Campbell was staff director for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee under Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) while Oliver formerly served as legislative director for former Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas) and Matthews was chief of staff to ex-Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.). BlueWater has represented Toshiba since 2003.

Europe

France (Suez): Suez North America, a New Jersey-based affiliate of French energy and utilities firm Suez Environnement, has hired Mercury Public Affairs to lobby on “government affairs counseling with a focus on smart water investment in the infrastructure package.” Registered to lobby on the account are partner Michael Soliman, a former state director to Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), and Juan Melli, a senior vice president in Mercury’s Westfield, New Jersey office.

Middle East

Libya: Mercury Public Affairs is now lobbying for Libya’s new Government of National Unity, the provisional authority aimed at unifying rival power centers in Tripoli and the eastern city of Tobrouk ahead of elections planned for December. The contract was effective March 30 and includes “strategic consulting, government relations, lobbying, and media relations and management.” Mercury Public Affairs is working as a subcontractor for Mercury International UK on a month-to-month basis. The terms of Mercury International UK’s prime agreement with the GNU were not immediately clear.

The point of contact is the new government’s special envoy to the United States, Mohammed Ali Abdallah. The new government is led by Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dabeiba and a three-member Presidency Council headed by Mohamed al-Mnefi. Mercury first registered to lobby for the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) for $2 million per year back in April 2019 amid concerns that then-President Donald Trump was siding with eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar against the GNA.

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Qatar: Former Sen. John Vincent “Vin” Weber (R-Minn.), a partner with Mercury Public Affairs, has registered as a foreign agent on the firm’s contract with the Embassy of Qatar. Weber will provide “research, advice, and engagement with relevant nongovernmental policy and academic institutions.” He is the sixth former lawmaker to register as a foreign agent for Doha, joining former Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Ron Klink (D-Penn.) of Nelson Mullins; former Reps. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.) of Holland & Knight; and former Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) of Venable.

Weber served as secretary of the House Republican Conference and was a key adviser to House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) in 1994 but opposed President Donald Trump‘s leadership of the party. He briefly stepped down from Mercury in 2019 while the Department of Justice investigated his past work with Paul Manafort on behalf of a Ukrainian think tank that special counsel Robert Mueller‘s Russia investigation revealed to be linked to then-President Viktor Yanukovych. Weber previously lobbied for Qatar between 2015 and 2019.

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Caught our Eye

Myanmar: The Burmese military junta’s consulting contract with Canada-based lobbyist Ari Ben-Menashe and his firm Dickens & Madson firm is showing results. Ben-Menashe helped organize a weeklong press tour to the country for reporters with CNN and Al Jazeera from March 31 to April 6 aimed at helping get the military’s point of view across, CNN wrote in an editor’s note to its online story about the trip. Foreign Lobby Report first disclosed news of Ben-Menashe’s lobbying contract on March 5.

From CNN: Editor’s Note: (CNN was granted access to Myanmar by its military. The trip was coordinated through the military’s consultant, Ari Ben-Menashe. The military escorted the team and controlled its access and movements throughout. A journalist from the Southeast Asia Globe, who was also reporting for Al Jazeera, was on the trip along with CNN.)

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Honduras: Vice takes a deep dive into lobbying of Republican officials by a Honduran government eager to avoid US repercussions over alleged ties to drug trafficking.

President Donald Trump‘s short-lived national security adviser Michael Flynn was warned against taking money from foreign clients as far back as 2014, The Guardian reports.

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