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Ethiopian diaspora steps up human rights lobbying; Argentina nabs ex-aide to House trade panel chairman; British ex-diplomat joins Zimbabwe lobbyist on Uganda account: Friday’s Daily Digest

Ethiopian diaspora steps up human rights lobbying

Protesters demonstrate against the military conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray province in Washington, DC on Nov. 9, 2020 / By Phil Pasquini via Shutterstock

One of the largest Ethiopian diaspora associations in the US has joined the growing chorus of Ethiopian-American groups lobbying for human rights as ethnic clashes threaten to tear the east African nation apart. The Boulder-based Ethiopian American Civic Council, which represents Ethiopians of various ethnic and political backgrounds, has hired former Colorado state lawmaker Joe Miklosi (D-Denver) as well as Monica McCafferty and her Colorado public affairs firm MCM Strategies.

The two firms are tasked with lobbying Congress, the State Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and reaching out to private sector stakeholders to “increase humanitarian aid and media and stakeholder access to the Tigray region.” 

The council joins at least three other Ethiopian-American groups lobbying for the US to take on a greater role.

Read the story here.

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New in lobbying

Africa

Uganda : Mercury Public Affairs has registered a former British diplomat as the second foreign agent on its new account with the government of Uganda. George Tucker, a managing director in Mercury’s London office, joins senior strategic adviser Deirdre Stach in Washington on the account. Tucker notably served as the first secretary to the British embassy on Kenya before going into lobbying. He is also registered with the US Justice Department for work done on behalf of Israeli spyware firm Q Cyber Technologies (see more below).

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 a bipartisan outcry in Washington over reports of voter intimidation and violence against the opposition during the presidential election in January.

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Americas

Argentina: Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer has registered senior associate David Skillman as a foreign agent on its $1.9 million lobbying contract with Argentina’s Ministry of International Trade and Foreign Investment. A former deputy chief of staff and counsel to Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), the chairman of the House Ways and Means trade subcommittee, Skillman notably helped with congressional negotiations over the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. This is Skillman’s first foreign lobbying registration since leaving Capitol Hill at the end of 2019. Arnold & Porter signed a $1.932 million contract with Argentina in May 2020 for help with a massive debt restructuring and other economic issues, including the elimination of tariffs on biodiesel exports imposed under the Donald Trump administration. 

Others on the account include former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon and Raul Herrera, a former general counsel to the Inter-American Investment Corporation. Arnold & Porter also hired Latina lobbyist and Democratic strategist Cristina Antelo and her firm Ferox Strategies for help with the account in January.

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Europe

Russia/Ukraine: Yorktown Solutions shared an Atlantic Council piece highlighting the lobbying war over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany as part of its work for the Ukrainian gas industry. According to the piece by Diane Francis, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, “fierce lobbying” by Russian and German interests is “credited with helping to delay the implementation of sanctions, leading to speculation that the Biden administration may be softening its position on Nord Stream 2.”

The piece comes as the Federation of Employees of the Oil and Gas Industry of Ukraine recently renewed its year-long, $960,000 contract with Yorktown through 2021. The firm is led by Daniel Vajdich, a presidential adviser to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). The firm’s Jonathan Gregory and Brittany Beaulieu are also registered to lobby Congress and the Joe Biden administration to kill the project, which would allow Russian gas exports to western Europe to bypass Ukraine.

At least three firms are lobbying on the other side of the issue:

  • Roberti Global has represented Nord Stream 2 AG, the Swiss-based company owned by Russia’s Gazprom, since July 2017 and disclosed $600,000 in the first quarter of 2021. The firm’s founder Vincent Roberti lobbies on the account.
  • BGR Government Affairs also represents Nord Stream 2 AG. BGR International Practice head Walker Roberts has been the sole lobbyist on the account since its inception in April 2020. BGR disclosed $240,000 in payments from the company in the first quarter of 2021.
  • Finally, McLarty Associates lobbies for the five energy companies with which Nord Stream 2 AG has signed financing agreements: Austria’s OMV Aktiengesellschaft, Germany’s Wintershall Dea and Uniper, France’s Engie, and Shell International of The Netherlands. Former US Ambassador to Germany Richard Burt lobbies on the contract along with Francis Burwell, a senior director at McLarty and distinguished fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative. In the first quarter, the firm reported $60,000 each in payments from OMV and Wintershall and $30,000 each from the other three firms, for a total of $210,000.

Caught our eye

Eagled-eyed former Foreign Lobby Report contributor turned Washington Post cybersecurity researcher Aaron Schaffer writes that Dan Jacobson, the White House Office of Administration’s general counsel, provided legal services when he worked at law firm Arnold & Porter to an Israeli company whose spyware human rights group say has been used to target journalists and activists around the world. Read the report here.

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