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Africa sanctions hearing triggers lobbying push; former US envoy to Portugal lobbies for Kazakhstan; ex-NY Gov. Pataki lobbies on $30 billion US-Canada rail merger

Africa sanctions hearing triggers lobbying push

A Tuesday House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on the impact of US sanctions in Africa triggered a lobbying push by actors on both sides of the debate.

Mercury Public Affairs, which represents the government of Zimbabwe, shared several documents with the panel to argue that removing decades-old sanctions on the late President Robert Mugabe is long overdue.

Meanwhile lobbyists for an Ethiopia diaspora group urged the subcommittee to target key Ethiopian officials over the ongoing violence in the Tigray region.

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New lobbying filings

Americas

Haiti: Mercury Public Affairs distributed a response from the Haitian government to a recent Miami Herald op-ed from Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jean Monestime calling on the Joe Biden administration to name a special envoy for Haiti. The response took issue with the op-ed for arguing that President Jovenel Moise is showing “conduct eerily reminiscent of Haiti’s previous autocratic leaders” and defended his call for a constitutional referendum ahead of presidential elections this fall. “We want our American partners to constructively support the democratic process and the right to self-determination in Haiti,” the response states.

Mercury is registered to lobby for the Haitian government alongside the Miami-based Latin America Advisory Group. Meanwhile businessman Reginald Boulos has been ramping up his own lobbying as he eyes a possible run.

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Honduras: The government of Honduras has renewed its public relations consulting contract with Gus West Government Affairs through the end of the year. The rate is for $59,000 per month, the same as previously. The firm has provided public relations consulting for Honduras since 2016. Registered on the account are firm founder Gus West, president of the nonprofit Hispanic Institute in Washington; consultant Leonel Teller Sanchez, a former member of parliament and envoy to the European Union from Nicaragua; and consultant Richard Hernandez.

Honduras has also hired BGR Government Affairs on a $60,000-per-month contract in January 2020. The lobbying push comes as US authorities arrested President Juan Orlando‘s brother, former Honduran lawmaker Juan Alvarado, on drug trafficking charges in Miami in 2018. A US court sentenced Alvarado to life in prison in March. Meanwhile a US Senate bill to sanction Orlando over alleged government corruption and human rights abuses has picked up 11 Democratic co-sponsors while a House bill to suspend US security assistance has 53.

Venezuela: Crisis communications firm Levick Strategic Communications (LEVICK) is the latest to belatedly register as a foreign agent for past work for Venezuela’s state-owned oil and gas company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) and its Houston refiner Citgo. LEVICK CEO Richard Levick and then-Vice President Bryant Madden (now with MWWPR) registered on the account. The new disclosure covers the period between February 2019 and mid-October 2019, after President Donald Trump recognized Juan Guaido as the legitimate leader of the country and switched control of PDVSA’s US operations over to the opposition. During that time period LEVICK was paid $1.120 million for communications work, according to the new filing.

Newly disclosed correspondence between Levick and Citgo however indicates that the two worked together “for many years” prior to 2019. Levick did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The disclosure follows similar filings (see below) by a host of lobbying and public relations firms as the Department of Justice has been ramping up enforcement of the lobbying disclosure law and advising more and more firms to disclose past engagements under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

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Asia

China: China Daily paid US and international newspapers $1 million to publish its content and spent another $2 million in advertising in the six months through April despite a growing backlash against Chinese government propaganda. China Daily Distribution Corp., which publishes the global edition of the Chinese Communist Party’s English-language newspaper, disclosed advertising expenses of $700,000 with Time USA, with another $372,000 from the Financial Times and $330,000 from Canada’s Globe & Mail. Meanwhile Bay Area Production Services, part of the Hearst newspaper chain, was paid $241,000 to publish China Daily’s content.

The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Boston Globe all continued to publish China Daily’s content, even as the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal have stopped their collaboration in recent years. China Daily began disclosing its payments to US media last June, as Foreign Lobby Report first reported at the time.

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Kazakhstan: Greenberg Traurig has registered senior counsel and former US ambassador to Portugal Robert Sherman (bio) as a foreign agent on its contract with the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Sherman is notably an expert on Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) compliance. The ministry hired the firm in May 2018 for $2 million through the end of the year for “advice and counsel related to foreign relations issues.” The contract was renewed in 2019 for $500,000, then extended for another year in January 2020 for $850,000.

Five other firms are registered as foreign agents for the ministry:

  • APCO Worldwide (through Herbert Smith Freehills);
  • Latham & Watkins and its subcontractor Mercury Public Affairs; and
  • RJI Capital Corporation and its subcontractor Hutton-Transcon Joint Venture.

Meanwhile BGR Government Affairs represents the Kazakh Embassy in Washington.

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Europe

Ukraine: Finsbury Glover Hering (FGH, formerly Glover Park Group) pushed out to the media a resolution from the Ukrainian parliament urging Congress to “use all means available” to prevent the construction of Nord Stream 2 following the Joe Biden administration’s decision to waive sanctions on companies building the gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. FGH represents the Transatlantic Dialogue and Engagement Center, a new think tank in Kyiv associated with the Sluga Narodu (Servant of the People) party of President Volodymyr Zelensky.

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BUSINESS LOBBYING

​Canada: Former New York Gov. George Pataki is lobbying for the Canadian National Railway. Pataki, a senior counsel with Norton Rose Fulbright, will lobby on the Montreal-based freight railway’s $30 billion merger with Kansas City Southern to create the first freight-rail network linking the United State, Canada and Mexico by connecting ports in the three countries. Also lobbying on the account is Norton Rose partner Samuel Ramer.

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