Latest filings

India adds bipartisan duo to lobbying lineup; Mercury taps Zimbabwe lobbyist for Uganda account; Hmong group suing Laos hires lobby firm: Wednesday’s Daily Digest

India adds bipartisan duo to lobbying lineup

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation in New Delhi, India on July 25, 2020 / Amit.pansuriya

India has added a bipartisan Washington firm led by a longtime Democratic lobbyist to its roster of influence firms as the country faces a more critical administration in Washington and one of the worst outbreaks of the COVID-19 pandemic at home.

The Indian Embassy in Washington has hired Ferox Strategies for $20,000 per month to provide “strategic counsel, tactical planning and government relations assistance on policy matters” to US government and institutions. The contract began April 8 and lasts through June 30, with the option to renew for another three months. Politico first reported news of the contract.

Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu signed the contract with Ferox founder Cristina Antelo. Antelo is registered to lobby on the account along with Mark Williams, a former chief of staff to former Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) and Mike Conaway (R-Texas).

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New lobbying filings

Africa

Uganda: Mercury Public Affairs has registered senior strategic adviser Deirdre Stach as the first foreign agent working on its new contract on behalf of the government of Uganda. Mercury is working as a subcontractor to London-based Mercury International UK Ltd. on the account, which renews month-to-month starting April 22. The firm is providing “strategic consulting, government relations, lobbying, and media relations consulting and management services” on behalf of President Yoweri Museveni‘s government. The contract comes amid bipartisan outcry in Washington over reports of voter intimidation and violence against the opposition during the presidential election in January.

Stach served as legislative director to former Rep. Robert Walker (R-Penn.) and budget analyst for the House Committee on Science before becoming a lobbyist. She is also registered as a foreign agent on Mercury’s accounts with Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Libya’s Government of National Unity, the Turkey-US Business Council (TAIK) and the US subsidiary of Chinese video surveillance company Hikvision.

Mercury joins Scribe Strategies and Advisors, which has lobbied for the Ugandan government since 2015. Meanwhile Vanguard Africa has represented opposition leader Bobi Wine in Washington since 2018.

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Americas

Haiti: Mercury Public Affairs distributed a Haitian Embassy press release to major US news channels and newspapers last week denouncing what it called House Democrats’ calls for “regime change” in the Caribbean country. The statement takes issue with an April 26 letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken spearheaded by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) that calls on the Joe Biden administration to withhold US and international support for President Jovenel Moise‘s proposed constitutional referendum and appoint a special envoy for Haiti. The letter also calls for a “Haiti-led process for change” rather than new elections under Moise that the opposition insists cannot be fair. The letter was signed by 68 members, including every Democrat on the Western Hemisphere subcommittee.

This latest spat comes as the Haitian government has been ramping up its lobbying presence in Washington to counter pressure from members of the Haitian diaspora claiming that Moise’s term ended in February and urging him to step down. The president insists he has another year left in his term and is pushing for constitutional reforms and new elections in the fall.

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Asia

Armenia: Armenia has terminated its with contract with New York PR firm Copper Strategies to advance Yerevan’s position on last year’s conflict with Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. The Embassy of Armenia in Washington hired the firm on Oct. 30 for media outreach and social media engagement regarding the conflict. The contract ended March 31, according to a new lobbying, with the firm disclosing $41,000 in payments for its work.

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Azerbaijan: Washington-based Portland PR ended its work defending Azerbaijan’s position in last year’s conflict with Armenia on Jan. 18. The firm was hired in October by an entity in Baku called Investment Corporation LLC, widely seen as a front for the Azerbaijani government. Portland PR disclosed $90,000 in payments for the work, which consisted of “communications services regarding foreign policy matters and Azerbaijan relations with the United States.” The firm did not disclose sharing any communications to the US public during the period.

The Investment Corporation also hired Washington PR firm the S-3 Group last fall for $25,000 per month for an initial three months to “create and place earned and digital media to further diplomacy.” S-3 did not respond to a request for comment about whether it still works on the account, which remains listed as active in the Justice Department’s Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) database.

Meanwhile BGR distributed a informational materials to US policymakers on Tuesday from the Azerbaijani Embassy in Washington warning that Armenian ally Russia is building two new military sites in Armenia near the border with Azerbaijan. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan made the announcement late last month. “Such an expanded presence demonstrates that Armenia will never become a fully sovereign nation unless it would be open to normalize relations with neighbors and sign a peace agreement with Azerbaijan,” the document states. Russia helped broker last year’s cease-fire after its Armenian ally was routed by Turkey-backed Azerbaijan in fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.

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Japan: The Embassy of Japan has renewed its annual contracts with RSC Services International and Beacon Policy Advisors through March 2022. The contracts are for $30,000 per month and $5,400 per month, respectively. RSC, named after former Hogan Lovells partner and 1992 Bill Clinton transition team leader Raymond S. Calamaro, has represented the embassy since April 2018. Beacon has worked for the embassy since April 2019.

Japan: Maia Comeau and her firm Comeau & Company stopped lobbying for the Embassy of Japan on March 31. Comeau had represented the embassy since April 2019 and signed a contract worth up to $236,000 last year for congressional lobbying and outreach to private sector organizations. Comeau was the director of congressional affairs for the German Marshall Fund of the United Sates for more than a decade and founded its Richard G. Lugar Institute for Diplomacy and Congress

Japan: The Daschle Group sought a meeting with White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain on March 17 on behalf of the Embassy of Japan, according to the firm’s lobbying filing for the six months through March. Firm founder and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) is among the lobbyists on the account. The firm has represented the Embassy of Japan since 2015.

Laos: Sacramento nonprofit United Hmong Vision, Inc. has hired Lobbyit to lobby on raising “awareness of human rights abuses against the Hmong people in Laos.” The advocacy organization is collecting donations on its website to support a lawsuit in says it has filed at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva against the Lao government for “persecution, killing, and validating human rights against the Hmong,” a minority group that sided with the United States against the communists during the Vietnam War. Lee Pao, the group’s leader, told Foreign Lobby Report that he hopes to get lawmakers to write to the US Mission to the UN in Geneva in support of the effort and also condition US aid to Laos cooperating with the UN on addressing human rights violations in the country. Lobbyit’s director of government relations Justin Lewis is registered to lobby on the account.

Tibet: The Office of Tibet in Washington disclosed receiving $1.6 million in donations from Tibetan associations in the United States and Canada during the six months through March. The office notably helped organize last November’s White House visit by the head of the Tibetan government in exile, Central Tibetan Administration President Lobsang Sangay. The office also lobbied for last year’s passage of the Tibetan Policy and Support Act, which make it official US policy that the succession of Tibetan Buddhist leaders, including the Dalai Lama, be decided by Tibetan Buddhists without interference from China.

Europe

Ukraine: ETS Consulting on Jan. 1 ended its lobbying for the ​Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Charity Fund, a nonprofit in Kyiv that sought support for a holocaust memorial at the site where the Nazis killed tens of thousands of Ukrainian Jews during their invasion of the Soviet Union. Eric Schultz, a former US ambassador to Zambia who was previously deputy chief of Mission to the US Embassy in Kyiv, had been registered on the account, which began in July 2019. The termination comes as the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky has signed a memorandum of understanding to promote the construction of a memorial this year, the 80th anniversary of the tragedy.

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Russia: The Ingush-American Society, an Ohio nonprofit, has hired Lobbyit to “rais[e] awareness around human rights abuses against the Ingush ethnic group in Russia.” The registration comes as Ingushetia, a Muslim-majority republic of Russia in the North Caucasus, has long faced border conflicts with its neighbors including Moscow-backed Chechnya and North Ossetia. Al Tzurov, the point of contact for the society, said the group’s lobbying aims to educate Congress and the State Department about the Ingush people and the issues in the region, not to lobby for specific outcomes such as sanctions. Lobbyit’s director of government relations Justin Lewis is registered to lobby on the account.

Middle East

Turkey: The Turkish Radio-Television Corporation received $595,000 from its headquarters in Turkey to prepare and distribute content for TRT World in the six months through September.

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United Arab Emirates: The UAE Embassy in Washington spent $1.25 million for friendlier Internet search results and a podcast in the past six months. The embassy paid Syracuse-based Terakeet just over $1 million in the six months through March for search optimization services. And it paid TRG (The Rothkopf Group) Advisory Services $250,000 to develop TRG’s “Podbridge” podcast. The podcast covers “emerging issues and ideas of shared interest in the U.S., the Middle East and around the world.” TRG was founded by former FP Group CEO David Rothkopf.

Terakeet has registered three new foreign agents on its account for the UAE: Associate web developer Dominick Manno, software developer Justin Snyder and digital content manager Ryan Day.


Caught our eye

Rich Outzen, a senior adviser to President Donald Trump‘s special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey, has a new paper out on how the United States and Turkey can mend their “fractious alliance.”

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