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Opinion: The Justice Department is putting foreign lobbyists in harm’s way; Brownstein’s Royce expands work for Liberia; Tucker Carlson sides against Quebec power project: Thursday’s Daily Digest


Opinion: The Justice Department is putting foreign lobbyists in harm’s way

Foreign lobbyists and PR professionals often represent opposite sides in violent geopolitical conflicts.

They may work for governments or entities that have become highly politicized in the U.S.

And the agents themselves may be dragged into their clients’ fights.

By rigidly sticking to the requirement that they disclose their home addresses on the Internet for all to see, the Department of Justice is putting them in harm’s way, FARA lawyer Joshua Rosenstein writes in his latest guest column.


New lobbying filings

Africa

Liberia: Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck is expanding the scope of its work for Liberia. The firm has registered to lobby for the Liberia Maritime Authority, the public corporation that manages all commercial activities within the West African nation’s maritime domain. The contract is for $25,000 per month from April 23 through Aug. 23. The firm will provide “government relations services related to the Liberian registry and maritime program.” The contract was signed by Lenn Eugene Nagbe, the authority’s commissioner and CEO, and Brownstein Hyatt policy director and former House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.). Veteran diplomat and Brownstein policy director Samantha Carl-Yoder will supervise the account.

According to the contract, Brownstein will work to “protect and enhance the image of the Liberian registry and the Liberian maritime program including, but not limited to any and all aspects of the Liberian government insofar as it may affect the viability of the Liberian Maritime Program or threaten to pose a negative stigma on Liberia that may affect the registry and the maritime program.” Liberia is the world’s second most popular “flag of convenience”, behind only Panama, allowing more than 3,700 foreign-owned ships to register under its flag. The country has long battled what it calls the “outdated” reputation for poor safety records and tax dodging associated with the flag of convenience term.

Brownstein also represents the Liberian International Ship & Corporate Registry (LISCR), a US company that manages Liberia’s ship registry. The year-long, $120,000 contract began Feb. 2020. Royce and Carl-Yoder are registered on that contract along with Sean Callahan.

Asia

China (Fujian Jinhua): Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck has renewed its $480,000 contract with the Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Company for another year. The Chinese state-owned microchip company hired the firm in April 2019 after the US Justice Department accused it of involvement in a conspiracy to steal trade secrets from Micron Technology of Idaho, the only US-based company to manufacture dynamic random-access memory (DRAM), and the Commerce Department cut it off from US suppliers. Three Brownstein Hyatt partners are registered to lobby on the account: managing partner Marc Lampkin, shareholder Travis Norton and senior policy adviser Greta Joynes.

Fujian Jinhua has attracted outsize media attention as the first company targeted under the “China initiative” that the Justice Department launched in 2018 under President Donald Trump. The company has hired several other firms to fight the allegations and reverse its blacklisting. Alexandria-based Blueprint Communications registered to represent the company in July last year as a subcontractor for Steptoe & Johnson, which itself registered to lobby for Fujian Jinhua back in March 2019 for $30,000 per month. The company also hired Kobre & Kim in 2019 and paid the firm $540,000 before the contract was terminated in April 2020. Consultant Jim Handy also lobbied for the company in 2019.

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Japan: The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) office in San Francisco received $2.4 million from its parent organization in Japan to conduct “various joint activities with state governments, including seminar, research and other economic development activities,” according to a new lobbying filing for the six months through March. The group registered two new agents on the account: Executive Director Tomoaki Nakanishi and project coordinator Kellie La.

South Korea (Zion Church): The Livingston Group reported receiving $34,000 in the six months through March from the San Francisco Zion Church, a US branch of a South Korean church linked to one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the East Asian country. The firm reached out to and attended teleconferences with congressional staffers on matters related to blood and plasma donations by church members and international religious freedom. The church hired the firm last year to raise awareness about what it claims is persecution by the Korean government. The firm’s’ founder, former Rep. Robert Livingston (R-La.), is registered to lobby on the account along with managing partner J. Allen Martin and director Cathryn Kingsbury.

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Middle East

Iraq (Kurdistan): Dentons US has terminated its contract with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), effective March 31. The firm had represented the KRG’s liaison office in Washington since 2015 and was paid $20,000 a month to provide legal counsel and advice on Middle East policy issues. The firm notably reached out to the Senate Armed Services Committee in the six months through March to discuss the National Defense Authorization Act and Defense appropriations. BGR Government Affairs, Greenberg Traurig, PASS LLC and Slocum & Bodie still lobby for the KRG office.

Iraq: The Livingston Group terminated its registration for the government of Iraq on March 24. The firm had represented the Iraqi Embassy in Washington since 2017 but last disclosed any payments from the embassy ($150,000) in 2019. Livingston Group consultant Bernie Robinson, a former chief of staff to Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), had been registered on the account.

Qatar: The Embassy of Qatar paid Bridge Builder Communications of Houston $136,000 in the six months through March, down from $144,000 in the previous six months, to help promote its Qatar Harvey Fund. The firm worked closely with Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis and his staff to announce the construction of five soccer fields paid for by the Qatar Harvey Fund that double as flood control infrastructure.

Qatar is heavily invested in Texas. State-run Qatar Petroleum owns a 70 percent stake in Golden Pass, a natural gas terminal outside of Houston. Golden Pass’s export facility is connected to several LNG fields being developed by Qatar Petroleum, including a $28.8 billion project to expand the country’s North Field East LNG. Golden Pass, for its part, spent $400,000 on lobbying in 2020. Three firms are registered to lobby for the company: Cogent Strategies, Mabry Public Affairs and Timothy A. Glassco Consulting.

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Saudi Arabia: New York CEO advisory firm Teneo Strategy has terminated the registrations of two people working on its public relations contract with Saudi Arabia’s Neom Company. The firm removed Faten Alqaseer, who still works with Teneo, and Richard Powell, who has left the firm, from the account. The current contract is Teneo’s fourth public relations contract with Neom, which is developing a $500 billion futuristic mega-city near Saudi Arabia’s border with Jordan as part of Crown Prince  Mohammed bin Salman‘s Vision 2030 effort to transform the country’s economy.

Teneo previously signed a contract for 328,000 Riyals ($87,000) per week to develop a strategic positioning plan for Neom CEO Nadhmi al-Nasr in July 2019 and another for 130,000 Riyals ($35,000) per week in December 2019 to manage the Neom Communications Department. In September 2020, the company signed a $250,000 contract with Teneo to help establish “deeper relationships with key stakeholders in the US, UK, China, Hong Kong and Australia, including business leaders, academics, media, potential partners and investors, and other opinion makers.” Neom has also hired Ruder Finn for $1.7 million and retained BCW (Burson Cohn & Wolfe) for $1.1 million.

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Turkey: Mercury Public Affairs has registered Avery Rose Royster, a director in its Washington office and former press aide to Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), on its account with the Turkey-US Business Council (TAIK) to assist with public relations, consulting, lobbying and government relations. The firm renewed its $1 million-a-year contract with the Turkey-US Business Council (TAIK) for the 2021 calendar year, despite having dropped its $1 million-a-year contract with the Turkish government last fall amid pressure from Armenian-American groups over Ankara’s support for Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. The firm has notably sought to boost Turkey’s reputation 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: Teneo Strategy has terminated the registration of consultant Faten Alqaseer on its account with the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation. The firm has represented the foundation led by Emirati Princess Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan since June 2020 for $3 million a year.

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Caught our eye

Canadian public utility Hydro-Quebec‘s controversial push to build a power line through the Maine woods is facing new resistance after Fox News host Tucker Carlson picked up New England environmentalists’ cause against the project.

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