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Huawei, Tencent ramp up lobbying under Biden; Mongolia president’s party seeks US image boost ahead of June elections; Turkey loses another lobbying firm: Wednesday’s Daily Digest

Huawei, Tencent ramp up lobbying in Biden’s first quarter

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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.

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.” 

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.”

And 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.

Read the story here.

New lobbying filings


China: Capitol Counsel partner Towner French ceased lobbying for the US-China Transpacific Foundation on April 9. The foundation runs one of five cultural-exchange programs for US officials that then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ended in December. Capitol Counsel has represented the foundation since 2017 and disclosed $10,000 in fees in 2020. Allegra Han, Martin Gold, Ann Jablon and Shannon Finley remain registered on the account. Capitol Counsel also represents the China-United States Exchange Foundation, which runs another cultural-exchange program that has not been banned.

Mongolia: The Democratic Party of Mongolia has hired Washington lobbying firm the DCI Group to promote President Battulga Khaltmaa‘s party as the “vanguard of Mongolian democracy” ahead of presidential elections on June 9. The contract is for $50,000 and lasts two months, starting April 12. It was signed by DCI CEO Douglas Goodyear and party vice-chair Tuvaan Tseveendorj. DCI vice president Kevin Ivers and partner Ryan Grillo are registered on the account.

Battulga is expected to face Khurelsukh Ukhnaa of the Mongolian People’s Party (MPP), which won a landslide victory in last year’s legislative elections. The president issued a decree on Sunday, April 18, to dissolve the MPP even as he insists that he should be able to run again despite a constitutional amendment limiting presidents to one four-year term.

Mongolian politician gets lobbying help in mining corruption probe


Croatia: The Croatian Association of Prisoners of Serbian Concentration Camps, a nonprofit in Zagreb, has hired Jenner & Block to lobby on “funding and cooperation for PTSD research.” Lobbying for the group is Jenner & Block partner Robert Harmala. The association was founded in 1995. It says 8,000 civilians and prisoners of war went through Serbian camps during the 1991-1995 Croatian War of Independence amid the breakup of Yugoslavia, 300 of whom did not return. Former Croatian prisoners have 44 open legal cases in Serbian courts, according to the association’s website, but Harmala said his US lobbying does not target Serbia.

“They are interested in funding and scientific exchange between researchers in Croatia and the US on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” Harmala said in an email to Foreign Lobby Report. “I think they would also stand to benefit from the research as would the US and Croatian veteran communities.”

Harmala notably represents murdered Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi‘s widow Hatice Cengiz and the Khashoggi-inspired Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) in their lawsuit against Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Ukraine: FGH Holdings (Finsbury Glover Hering) has registered managing director Joshua Gross on its account with the think tank arm of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky‘s political party, Sluga Narodu (Servant of the People). FGH signed a $50,000-a-month contract on Feb. 2 through the end of the year with the Transatlantic Dialogue and Engagement Center, a new think tank in Kyiv. The stated goal of the lobbying is to “advance Ukraine’s relations with the United States.”

FGH senior vice presidents Lindsay Plack and Tod Preston are also registered on the account. Gross joins the account just as the Joe Biden administration weighs sending more weapons to Ukraine amid a Russian military buildup at the border, Politico reported Wednesday. Gross previously registered to lobby for the governments of Argentina and Somaliland and the United Arab Emirates Mission to the United Nations through the Glover Park Group, which merged with Finsbury and Hering Schuppener to form FGH last year.

Ukraine president’s party hires US lobby shop

Middle East

Turkey: Capitol Counsel has terminated its lobbying for both the government of Turkey and Turkish Aerospace Industries, effective April 1 and April 9, respectively. The firm was previously a subcontractor to Greenberg Traurig on both accounts but went to work directly for the Turks last fall after Greenberg dropped them amid pressure from the Armenian diaspora over Turkey’s support for Azerbaijan in last year’s conflict with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.

The embassy retains the services of Amsterdam and Partners and Capitol Counsel subcontractor Lydia Borland of LB International Solutions. Capitol Counsel’s termination however leaves Turkish Aerospace Industries without any lobbying representation. The defense contractor is owned by the Turkish Armed Forces Foundation and the Presidency of Defense Industries, both of which are under the purview of the Turkish ministry of national defense. The company hired Greenberg Traurig for $25,000 a month last summer to help lift congressional opposition to a $1.5 billion sale of 30 T-129 attack helicopters to Pakistan. The United States however has so far refused to clear the sale under the Exports Control Act, which comes into play because the gunship’s CTS800 engine is jointly made by Rolls-Royce and Honeywell, a US company.

Turkish defense industry hires ex-congressmen to unblock arms sales to Pakistan

Business lobbying

Alibaba (China): The Duberstein Group has terminated its lobbying for Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba as of March 31. The firm reported $60,000 in payments and lobbied on e-commerce issues. Duberstein had been registered as a lobbyist for Alibaba since 2011 (initially through Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz) and disclosed $3.72 million in payments since then. Lobbying on the account were Duberstein partners David Schiappa, who served as a top aide to four Republican Senate leaders including Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Brian Griffin, a senior adviser to Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) when he was Democratic Policy Committee Chairman.

DJI (China): Akin Gump stopped lobbying for the US affiliate of Chinese drone-maker DJI on March 31. The firm had represented DJI Technology Inc. since September 2019 and has disclosed $360,000 in payments since then. The US government has accused the world’s biggest drone company of human rights
abuses in Xinjiang and added it to the Commerce Department’s “entity list” restricting US technology exports in December. The termination came just 20 days after K&L Gates likewise stopped lobbying for DJI. K&L had lobbied for the company since 2016 and disclosed $1.23 million in payments since then. Former Rep. Jeffrey Denham (R-Calif.) was one of the lobbyists on the account.

Even as DJI has been shedding lobbying firms, one of them, Cassidy & Associates, added five new people to its account with the company in the first quarter of 2021:

  • 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.

Cassidy & Associates has lobbied since March 2020 for DJI and been paid $160,00 since then. CLS Strategies also lobbies for the company.