Asia, Business & trade, New in Lobbying, US-China tensions

Huawei, Tencent ramp up lobbying under Biden

Chinese tech giants Huawei and Tencent ramped up their in-house lobbying in the first quarter as they seek a fresh start with the Joe Biden administration and the new Democratic-led Congress after escalating tensions under President Donald Trump.

Huawei Technologies USA of Plano, Texas spent $180,000 in the first quarter of 2021, according to a new lobbying disclosure. That’s up from $20,000 in the last three months of 2020 and the most since the first quarter of 2020.

The telecommunications company has also registered Jeffrey Hogg, a legislative aide to former Reps. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) and Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), as a lobbyist under the domestic Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA). Until now Huawei’s head of government affairs Don Morrissey had been flying solo.

Meanwhile Steptoe & Johnson, one of five firms registered to lobby for Huawei, reported $70,000 in revenues from Huawei in the first quarter, up from $50,000 previously. The firm also added partner Edward Krauland, the co-chair of the firm’s Export Controls/Economic Sanctions/Anti-Money Laundering practices, as a registered lobbyist on the account.

The uptick comes as Huawei’s lobbying spending collapsed in 2020 after topping $2.85 million in the second half of 2019. Accused of threatening US national security by the Donald Trump administration and members of Congress from both parties because of its smartphones and 5G dominance, Huawei signed $3.5 million in public relations contracts last fall with New York-based Ruder Finn and Boston technology communications company Racepoint Global.


Huawei inks $3.5 million PR push as lobbying spending tumbles

Tencent, the conglomerate that owns China’s ubiquitous WeChat app, also saw its in-house lobbying grow in the first quarter. Tencent Holdings Limited spent $330,000 in the first quarter, up from $240,000 previously, to lobby on President Trump’s Aug. 6 executive order targeting the company, as well as the order’s “implementation” and “related matters.” (an earlier version of Tencent’s Q1 filing said it spent $630,000 before an amended version knocked it down to $330,000).

Tencent registered its in-house lobbying arm in August after Trump determined that WeChat and video-sharing app TikTok posed a threat to the US security and economy and accused the apps of capturing user data and censoring content opposed by the Communist Party of China. The company has also hired two firms, Brownstein Hyatt and Paul Weiss, as well as attorney Toby Myerson, to lobby on the issue. Former House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) in one of the Brownstein lobbyists.

Other Chinese tech companies are also expanding their influence operations for the Biden era.

Former Rep. Toby Moffett (D-Conn.) is now a registered lobbyist on Mercury Public Affairs‘ account with e-commerce company Alibaba as it lobbies on “technology policy issues” and “access to US capital markets Issues related to e-commerce.”

TikTok owner ByteDance has added Jason Samuels, a former communications director for Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) and the Republican Study Committee, to its in-house lobbying team.

And Cassidy & Associates has added five new people to its account with drone maker DJI:

  • Cassidy Chairman Barry Rhoads;
  • Kai Anderson, a former deputy chief of staff to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.);
  • Andrew Forbes, a former legislative aide to Sen, James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and
  • Kelley Hudak, a former coalitions director to Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.); and
  • Julie Eddy Rokala, a former chief of staff for Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and special assistant to President Bill Clinton.

Update: This story has been updated to reflect that Tencent has amended its Q1 filing to indicate that its in-house lobbying spending in the first three months of 2021 was $330,000 rather than $630,000.