Latest filings

Russian oligarch’s EN+ Group lobbies on sanctions; Holland & Knight lobbies for Libya asset recovery; Indian conglomerate lobbies on Venezuela fuel swaps

Russian oligarch Deripaska’s EN+ Group taps Dem strategist for sanctions lobbying

Oleg Deripaska attends the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 16, 2016

The Anglo-Russian parent company of one of the world’s largest aluminum producers has hired a Democratic strategist to lobby on lingering trade sanctions issues following a Donald Trump administration deal with former controlling owner Oleg Deripaska.

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US sanctions Bulgarian officials after lobbying battle

Bulgarian politician Delyan Peevski speaks to the media on May 25, 2019 in Sofia, Bulgaria

The Joe Biden administration today sanctioned five current and former Bulgarian officials for their involvement in “significant government corruption.” The designations by the State and Treasury departments follow a months-long lobbying campaign pitting the Bulgarian government against its critics, including several business owners who hired former State Department official Marshall Harris and his firm Alexandria Group International to press their case that authorities had manufactured false criminal charges to seize their assets.

Among the sanctioned individuals is Delyan Peevski, a media mogul and former member of Parliament accused of using an official with the National Bureau for Control on Special Intelligence-Gathering Devices as an intermediary and accomplice to “peddle influence and pay bribes to protect himself from public scrutiny and to exert influence over key institutions and sectors in Bulgarian society.” Bulgarian law firm Aviora Consult hired the BGR Group last December for $30,000 to help Peevksi with his “issues in the US,” which include a US Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) lawsuit in the Southern District of New York brought by three companies over a failed real estate venture

BGR previously represented Peevski in 2017-2019. The firm did not respond to a request for comment.

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New lobbying filings

Africa

Kenya: Washington lobbying and public relations firm Rational 360 contacted Secretary of State Antony Blinken‘s chief of staff Suzy George on April 24 to lay out Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta‘s asks ahead of their virtual meeting on April 27, according to a new lobbying filing for the six months through April. The outreach marked one of the first lobbying activities on behalf of the Kenyan Embassy in Washington, which hired the Democratic-led firm on April 12 for $600,000 a year as the east African country presses on with free trade agreement talks begun under President Donald Trump.

Rational 360’s CEO, former White House communications director Patrick Dorton, is registered on the account along with Joseph Lockhart, a former Clinton press secretary who joined the firm last year. Rounding out the team is senior director Nicholas Fitzgerald.

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Americas

Canada (Quebec): Maine public relations firm Blaze Partners has registered three more people as foreign agents for the US affiliate of Canadian public utility Hydro-Quebec: Associate creative director Jacqueline Dyer, digital strategist Elsie Widing, client service employee Benita Kiss. HQ Energy Services (US) paid Blaze $335,000 in the six months through April for a campaign to promote a proposed $1 billion power line project to carry hydroelectricity to New England.

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El Salvador: Washington lobbying and public relations firm Rational 360 sought to set up meetings between Salvadoran Foreign Minister Alexandra Hill Tinoco and members of the House foreign affairs and immigration panels and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in the six months through April, according to a new lobbying filing. The firm also reached out to Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), the co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Commission, which tracks human rights abuses. The firm scored at least one meeting, with staff for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), in December 2020. The firm also held phone calls with Patrick Ventrell, the director of the State Department’s Office of Central American Affairs, in late March and early April and flagged news reports that administration officials were being dispatched to Mexico and Guatemala to deal with the surge in migration, but not El Salvador.

Rational 360 signed a six-month, $65,000-a-month contract with the office of President Nayib Bukele in October. Managing partner Patrick Dorton, a former special assistant to President Bill Clinton who is registered to lobby on the contract, met with Foreign Minister Hill Tinoco in Delray Beach, Florida in April. El Salvador has hired two other firms in addition to Rational 360: newly formed Invest El Salvador and white shoe law firm Arnold & Porter.

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Mexico: Greenberg Traurig has registered former Rep. Albert Wynn (D-Md.), a senior director at the firm, as a foreign agent for Mexico’s Ministry of Economy. The Secretaria de Economia recently renewed its lobbying contract with the firm for $300,000 for the 10 months from March through the end of the year. Mexico first hired the firm in 2019 to lobby on passage and implementation of the US-Mexico-Canadian Free Trade Agreement. Wynn, who served from 1993 to 2008, also lobbies for the government of Kazakhstan and China’s Alibaba Group.

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Middle East

Libya: Holland & Knight has officially registered as a foreign agent for Libya as it begins reaching out to US officials regarding efforts to recover billions of dollars of assets stolen by former dictator Moammar Gadhafi and his cronies. Just like Baker & Hostetler, whose registration Foreign Lobby Report first covered last week, Holland & Knight has been working for the Libya Asset Recovery & Management Office (LARMO) since last fall but is only now registering as it begins lobbying work. Also like Baker & Hostetler, the firm is to be paid for its work by third-party funders who are expected to take a cut of any retrieved assets. Holland & Knight has registered three people on the contract:

  • Partner and International Trade Practice head Ronald Oleynik (bio);
  • Partner Warren Gluck (bio); and
  • Director of Ancillary Services James Harvey Cottrell (bio).

In other Libya news, Mercury Public Affairs, which represents the Tripoli-based interim Government of National Unity, distributed information materials raising concerns with Maltese plans to ship to eastern Libya billion Russian-made counterfeit Libyan dinars that it confiscated two years ago.

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Morocco: Minneapolis-based CCO Communications terminated its work for Moroccan phosphate mining giant OCP on March 31, according to a new lobbying filing for the six months through April. The firm was one of several hired to defend the company in a Commerce Department investigation into alleged government subsidies brought by US rival the Mosaic Company. The firm disclosed a total of $85,500 in fees for its public relations and corporate communications work for the company. The Commerce Department sided with Mosaic in March, leading to countervailing duty orders on phosphate fertilizer imports from Morocco and Russia for at least the next five years. 

Separately, Covington and Burling, which represents OCP in the dispute, disclosed $8.1 million in legal fees received during the period.

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Business lobbying

India/Venezuela: Alexandria public affairs firm Abi Associates has registered to lobby for Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries on “crude-for-diesel swap sanctions regarding Venezuela.” Registered to lobby on the issue is managing member Ankit Desai, a former staff assistant to the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) back in 2005. Reliance and Chevron met with the Biden administration in January to request the rollback of the Donald Trump administration’s restrictions on Venezuela’s oil industry, Bloomberg reported, including the reinstatement of oil swaps in exchange for diesel.

Abi is working as a subcontractor to law firm Eversheds Sutherland, which has been lobbying for Reliance since 2019. Eversheds disclosed receiving $280,000 from Reliance in the first quarter of 2021. The firm’s lobbyists, partners Jacob Dweck and Virginia Falk, lobbied the State Department on “US economic trade sanctions policies.”

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