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Ballard left without foreign clients after $14 million Trump payday; Saudi Arabia eyes English-language news platform; Ethiopian embassy ends lobbying

Ballard left without foreign clients after $14 million Trump payday

Ballard Partners has terminated its last foreign lobbying registration after pulling in more than $14 million representing foreign countries and political parties under President Donald Trump.

The company led by former Trump Florida lobbyist Brian Ballard parted ways with its last three foreign sovereign clients over the course of the six months through April, according to the firm’s latest lobbying filing. The firm had never registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) before 2017 but ended up representing 12 separate foreign clients under Trump (see chart below).

Contracts with the government of the Dominican Republic ended Nov. 1, with the Embassy of Qatar on Dec. 31 and with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Zimbabwe on Feb. 6. The firm reported $100,000 in payments from Qatar during the period and says it is still owed $150,000 by Zimbabwe.

Ballard himself was registered to lobby for all three along with firm partner Sylvester Lukis. Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a partner at the firm who represented Trump during his first impeachment trial, had been lobbying for Qatar.

News of the terminations comes as the firm announced today that it had tapped ex-Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), a former member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who heads the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, to lead its Washington office. Wexler is the latest in a string of Democratic hires as Ballard hopes to keep up the momentum from the Trump years that transformed the firm into one of Washington’s top earners.

“With Robert’s vast expertise on foreign and domestic affairs, our Washington office is well positioned to further grow along with our clients’ needs,” Ballard said in a press release.

Ballard Partners former foreign clients

Client
Fees and reimbursements
Halkbank (Turkey)
$3.137 million
Dominican Republic
$2.927 million
Qatar (Embassy)
$2.775 million
Turkey
$1.875 million
Kosovo (Office of the President)
$1.248 million
Group of 7 (Congo)
$600,000
Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation
$463,000
Zimbabwe (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
$450,000
People’s Democratic Party of Nigeria
$270,000
Socialist Party of Albania
$180,000
Azerbaijan (Embassy)
$150,000
Mali
$75,000
Source: US Department of Justice / Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)

New lobbying filings

Africa

Ethiopia: The Ethiopian Embassy in Washington and Venable have opted not to extend their $35,000-a-month contract past its initial three-month term. The termination leaves the embassy without any lobbying representation amid continuing bipartisan criticism of the violence in the country’s northern Tigray region. The contract began Feb. 2 and was terminated April 30, according to a new lobbying filing. During that time attorney Thomas Quinn and policy adviser Loren Aho held multiple calls and meetings with members of Congress and their staffs, including a March 9 call with the office of House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) to try to set up a phone call between President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (Biden dispatched his Senate ally Chris Coons (D-Del.) to the country a week later). Much of the lobbying centered around S. Res. 97, which Ambassador Fitsum Arega denounced in a March 18 letter to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). The Senate passed the resolution on May 19, and the House Foreign Affairs Committee is now considering its own version.

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Peace still has a separate $45,000-a-month contract with Holland & Knight, however. The contract was signed March 12 and lasts six months. Meanwhile the Ethiopian diaspora has split over the conflict in Tigray, with the Colorado-based Ethiopian American Civic Council opposing recently announced US visa restrictions on Ethiopian officials while other groups lobby for a tougher US response.

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Liberia: Liberian interests have hired a Washington public affairs firm to help with outreach to the African-American community in the American South as the West African country prepares to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the first arrival of freed American slaves who would eventually found Liberia in 1847. Paul Kennedy, an adviser to the country’s Ministry of Health, has hired 11:11 Global Incorporated to “facilitate the development and strategies associated with providing health related, hospitality and general business opportunities between American and Liberian business entities,” according to a new lobbying filing.

“What we are trying to do is reconnect with our relatives and family members in the United States who did not relocate to Liberia,” Kennedy told Foreign Lobby Report in a phone call from Liberia. “Of course this will bring economic benefits as well.”

Kennedy is the former director for Environmental and Social Performance (ESP) with the Millennium Challenge Account Liberia, which recently ended, and an unsuccessful 2020 candidate for the country’s Senate. He said the US outreach is the work of private Liberian citizens who are working on a proposal to get support from the country’s Ministry of Finance. Kennedy said he accompanied Finance Minister Samuel Tweah on a Liberian delegation to the US earlier this year that stopped by South Carolina and met with African-American religious and business leaders. He said the plan calls for the creation of a documentary on Liberia’s origins in the US and the organization of a South Carolina business and investor delegation to the country.

11:11 Global Incorporated is run by CEO LaJuan Frederick Martin. Its engagement with Kennedy is for three years, with fees still to be negotiated. According to its filings, the firm has already received $20,000 for its work and paid $20,000 to South Carolina consultant Tory Fields for help with outreach to local politicians and business leaders.

Americas

Canada: The National Coalition Party of Canada, a small political party based in Ottawa, has registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act to “promote and help facilitate” Canada’s participation in the US Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system. The party’s leader, Louis Raphael, is the only registered lobbyist on the account.

The lobbying filing states that the party aims to “better ascertain the wisdom of such a decision by clearly identifying the threat that ballistic missiles pose to North America and Canada, and to further consider the need to work with (the US) through joint military intelligence and counterintelligence in both modernizing the North American Aerospace Defence Com-mand (NORAD) and renewing the North Warning Systems line of early warning radar.” Interestingly, the party is registered for the same activities under Canada’s lobbying registry.

Middle East

Morocco: OCP North America, the US subsidiary of Morocco’s OCP S.A., has registered director Bruce Wilson as a foreign agent for the phosphate mining giant. Wilson will help develop “legislative and executive department messaging and communication strategies” related to the company’s “role in the US fertilizer sector and the potential impact of tariffs on the US agricultural community.”

OCP hired a bevy of lobbying and public relations last year to fight off a complaint over alleged subsidies from US rival Mosaic and is now shifting gears after losing its case before the Department of Commerce earlier this year. The company notably held video calls with several farm state lawmakers and House and Senate Agricultural committee staffers in the six months through April, acccording to a new lobbying filing, and paid $666,000 to several subcontractors for lobbying and PR services including the creation of the Stand with US Farmers website.

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Qatar: Venable has registered partner Yardly Pollas-Kimble, a former chief of staff to Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), as a foreign agent on its $45,000-a-month contract with the Embassy of Qatar in Washington. Rush is notably the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce panel that oversees US energy policy. Pollas-Kimble joined the firm in March as a partner in the Legislative and Government Affairs Practice. Venable has lobbied for Qatar since 2018.

Saudi Arabia: A Saudi company tied to the kingdom’s Ministry of Information has hired a famous Lebanese journalist’s US video production company to produce content for a new social media platform. Taqnia Engineering and Technology Services (Taqnia ETS) has hired Washington-based Prime Time Media for $1.6 million for “video production of English news content,” according to a newly disclosed lobbying filing.

The contract began in September and lasts 16 months. According to Prime Time Media’s registration, “Taqnia ETS is a private LLC that is supervised and financed by the Saudi Ministry of Information and is responsible to make payments on its behalf.” The media company disclosed already receiving $160,000 in March and April from Taqnia for “studio building, equipment purchase, operating expenses, freelancersm, branding, operating expenses and contractors.”

Elie Nakouzi

Prime Time Media is solely owned and operated by Elie Nakouzi, a Lebanese journalist best known for being the first Arab news anchor to interview President George W. Bush in 2007 amid widespread regional anger over the war in Iraq. Nakouzi also served as the Washington bureau chief for Lebanon’s MurrTV and as an anchor for Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya TV.

“Our contract with Taqnia ETS is to produce video content for an international social media platform that they plan to launch soon,” Nakouzi told Foreign Lobby Report in an email. He declined to comment further for the moment but said his company will play no role in how the video content will be disseminated.

Taqnia ETS is a subsidiary of Taqnia (“technology” in Arabic), also known as the Saudi Technology Development and Investment Company. The company is fully owned by the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), the sovereign wealth fund chaired by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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