Latest filings

J Street lobbying spend doubles under Biden; Somaliland extends lobbying amid tensions with Somalia; Chinese video surveillance giant renews with BCW through 2021: Tuesday’s Daily Digest

J Street lobbying spend doubles under Biden

Joe Biden formally launches his 2020 presidential campaign during a rally May 18, 2019, at Eakins Oval in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania / Photo by Matt Smith

Liberal advocacy group J Street almost doubled its spending in the first quarter of the year as the Israel-focused group looks to President Joe Biden and the Democratic Congress to limit Israeli settlement expansions, restart talks with the Palestinians and re-enter the nuclear deal with Iran.

J Street disclosed spending $190,000 in the first three months of the new administration, up from the $100,000 it has spent in every quarter going back to 2011.

The group also added a fifth lobbyist to the account in the first quarter: senior government affairs associate Benjamin Schwartz, a former legislative aide to Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.).

And perhaps most strikingly, the liberal group is once again reaching out to the executive branch after giving up on the Donald Trump administration entirely last year.

Read the story here.


New lobbying filings

Africa

Somaliland: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Somaliland has extended its lobbying contract with FGH Holdings (previously the Glover Park Group) through October 31. The extension is for $22,000 per month, the same as before. FGH also added managing director Tod Preston as a registered foreign agent on the account, where he joins managing director Joshua Gross and Brett O’Brien. Preston was previously an aide to former Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and communications director for the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. He is also a registered agent for the government of the Ivory Coast and the political party of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Glover Park has represented Somaliland on and off since 2013 and is currently its only registered lobbying firm. The extension comes amid renewed calls for independence for the breakaway republic as its neighbor Somalia deals with protracted political instability, sparking dire warnings from the Somaliland mission to the US.

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Uganda: Mercury Public Affairs has registered two more people as foreign agents for Uganda: Senior associate and former British parliamentary aide Miran Hassan in London and associate John (Nijat) Artunkal in Washington. They join Washington-based senior strategic adviser Deirdre Stach and London-based former British diplomat George Tucker on the account.  

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

Costa Rica: The Costa Rica Investment Promotion Authority has hired New York economic development and travel marketing firm Development Counsellors International (DCI) to implement an advertising plan promoting the Central American country as an investment and export hub. The $64,800 contract dates back to September 2020 but was just disclosed with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). DCI represents several other clients in Europe and Latin America including PromPeru, the Barcelona Turisme Convention Bureau, the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency and VisitScotland. The firm was previously registered as a foreign agent for the agency back in the late 1990s.

Europe

United Kingdom: The tourism board of Great Britain, VisitBritain, has registered 10 new people as foreign agents in the United States:

Middle East

Saudi Arabia: MSLGroupAmericas (dba Qorvis Communications) has just filed an updated public relations contract with the Embassy of Saudi Arabia for calendar year 2020. The contract is for $279,500 per month, or $3.35 million per year, the same as in 2019. It covers public relations “including services for events, editorial services, outreach, and research (including polling).” Unlike the 2019 contract, this one no longer includes a separate $217,500 per month fee for work on behalf of the Saudi Redevelopment Plan for Yemen (SDRPY). Qorvis also represents the Muslim World League, which is based in Mecca and receives funding from the Saudi government, and just re-upped its $57,500-per-month contract with the Saudi Human Rights Commission.

In addition, Qorvis registered six more employees as foreign agents for Saudi Arabia:

Another two previously registered agents for Saudi Arabia left the firm last week: James Faeh (KSA agent) and Mackenzie Trumbull (agent for KSA and the Muslim World League).

Turkey: The US office of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) disclosed no lobbying activities in the six months through March as it dealt with travel restrictions caused by the covid-19 epidemic. The HDP’s US representative Giran Ozcan however told Foreign Lobby Report last month that a surge in lobbying activity is expected aimed at fighting Turkish calls to shut down the party and drawing US attention to the ongoing trial of the party’s former co-chairs on charges that they incited deadly protests in 2014. Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, who have been jailed since 2016, are among 108 suspects on trial.

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United Arab Emirates: The Camstoll Group has registered analyst Sarah Lamp as a foreign agent for Outlook Energy Investments, which is wholly owned by the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The financial risk consultancy has worked for Outlook on “issues pertaining to illicit financial networks, and developing and implementing strategies to combat illicit financial activity” since 2012, notably by raising concerns in Washington around the financial activities of UAE rival Qatar.

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Business lobbying

Hikvision (China): The US affiliate of Chinese video surveillance giant Hikvision has extended its public relations contract with BCW (Burson Cohn & Wolfe) through the end of 2021, according to newly disclosed lobbying filings under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). BCW also disclosed engagement letters with Hikvision USA for 2019 and 2020 for the first time. BCW has advised Hikvision on public affairs and policy issues, strategic planning and guidance, and media relations since 2018 and disclosed $1.78 million in fees and expenses from the company in 2020.

The disclosures come as Hikvision has been accused of posing a cybersecurity risk and enabling human rights abuses against ethnic Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang region. Mercury Public Affairs and Sidley Austin also represent Hikvision.

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BMW (Germany): BMW of North America has hired Ogilvy Government Relations to lobby on “general issues related to the automotive industry including manufacturing, automated driving systems, safety, and trade.” This is the company’s only current lobbying contract (BMW’s in-house lobbying arm spent $320,000 in the first quarter).

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