- Washington’s affordable lobby shop advocates for Ethiopia, Uyghur human rights
- Ex-Rep. Moffett lobbies for Andorran group hammered by Treasury accusations
- Thai group hires help on Venezuela sanctions
- Cambodia taps US lawyer for return of Khmer treasures
- Accused Mexican governor drops lobbying on leaked US financial records
- Defense lobbyist prods Congress on US-Italy relationship
Podcast: Washington’s affordable lobby shop advocates for Ethiopia, Uyghur human rights
In this week’s episode of The Influencers podcast, we interview Lobbyit founder and president Paul Kanitra and government relations director Justin Lewis about the Washington firm’s unique approach to affordable lobbying.
With its unbeatable prices at a time of renewed attention to human rights under the Joe Biden administration, the firm is seeing a surge in business from diaspora groups. We talk to them about the pressure of being the first lobbying firm hired by Uyghur human rights, the challenges of rival diaspora campaigns weighing in on the violence in Ethiopia, and much more.
For more on Lobbyit’s activities, read:
- Uyghurs sign first lobbying contract
- Ethiopian diaspora splits on human rights lobbying
- Hmong group suing Laos hires lobby firm
- Ohio group lobbies on human rights for Russia’s Ingush
Interested in being on the podcast co-hosted by Foreign Lobby Report and the LEVICK communications firm? Contact us at [email protected].
New lobbying filings
Mexico: Houston law firm Gerger Hennessy & McFarlane terminated its foreign lobbying registration for a Mexican governor accused of money laundering and ties to organized crime on May 7, barely a month after being hired. Tamaulipas Gov. Francisco Garcia Cabeza de Vaca hired the firm effective April 2 to try to put an end to alleged leaks of confidential US government documents to the media by Mexican prosecutors. The firm’s sole disclosed political activity was an April 15 letter to acting FinCEN chief Michael Mosier to flag what he called “deeply concerning” reports of abuse of confidential FinCEN data by Mexico’s Financial Intelligence Unit and its chief, Santiago Nieto.
Gerger Hennessy also disclosed received $100,000 from the governor’s wife, Mariana Gomez de Garcia Cabeza de Vaca. More than half of that amount — around $56,500 — went to Corpus Christi law firm Canales & Simonson for “legal fees” while Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss pocketed another $3,200. After Foreign Lobby Report first reported on the contract and the $100,000 payment in April, Mexican authorities added embezzlement to the list of charges against the governor.
Cambodia: The Cambodian government has hired an American lawyer to help repatriate ill-gotten antiquities scattered around the world. Bradley James Gordon, a US lawyer practicing in Phnom Penh, has registered as a foreign agent of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts for his work as a “legal adviser on repatriations of Khmer cultural properties.” In his filing with the US Justice Department, Gordon disclosed that he had worked for the ministry pro bono since May 2018 but now anticipates entering “into an agreement with the Ministry in the future which will include means of compensation.” Gordon will provide research and communications services for Cambodia, but not lobbying.
The registration comes as the family of the late art dealer Douglas Latchford agreed late last year to turn over more than 100 Khmer cultural objects to Cambodia after three years of negotiations, a development for which the ministry thanked Gordon as well as the US Homeland Security Department, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the US Embassy in Phnom Penh. “These events herald strong prospects of future cooperation to ensure that Khmer antiquities are enjoyed and cherished by Cambodians and the world,” Culture Minister Phoeurng Sackona said in a press release.
Andorra: The Andorran group behind a bank that went out of business after the Barack Obama administration accused it of helping organized crime groups from around the world launder billions of dollars has hired Mercury Public Affairs to lobby on “federal government relations regarding international banking industry.” Former Rep. Toby Moffett (D-Conn.), a co-chairman of the firm’s Washington office (bio), is registered to lobby for Grup Immobiliari Cierco. Joining him are Mercury partner Bryan Lanza (bio) and former Treasury Department sanctions official Peter Kucik, who just joined the firm as managing director in its Washington office.
The group is co-owned by brothers Ramon Cierco and Higini Cierco, the former controlling shareholders of Banca Privada d’Andorra (BPA). The bank was forced to close after the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) declared it a “primary money laundering concern” in March 2015. The group previously retained the services of SGR Government Affairs and Lobbying from 2015 to 2018 as it unsuccessfully challenged the Treasury action in court. The case garnered a fair amount of press criticism of US financial regulators’ vast powers after FinCEN rescinded its devastating finding less than a year after its designation.
Thailand: A Thai asphalt company under scrutiny for allegedly helping Venezuela skirt US sanctions has hired lobbying and legal muscle in its defense. Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck has registered to lobby on behalf of the Tipco Asphalt Public Company Limited regarding “issues related to the application of U.S. law governing sanctioned entities.” The registration, which was effective April 28, is on behalf of the Washington Media Group. Veteran US diplomat Samantha Carl-Yoder (bio), now a policy director with Brownstein, and former House Financial Services Committee staffer David Cohen (bio) are registered to lobby on the account. Tipco has already paid $25,000 towards lobbying activities, according to the lobbying disclosure.
One of Asia’s biggest distributors of asphalt for roads and airport runways, Tipco disclosed $1.2 billion in revenues in 2019. In exchange for deep discounts on oil sales, the company is alleged to have helped Venezuela’s state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA) pay its vendors after the US froze its overseas bank accounts, sparking scrutiny by the Donald Trump administration, the Associated Press reported in October. The company announced in September that it would stop buying crude from Venezuela under US pressure.
Italy: Italian consulting firm VS Lobbying has hired TransAtlantic Services of Spotsylvania, Va. for “outreach to US congressional members to discuss US-Italy relationship.” Managing partner Patrick Gallagher, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces officer, is the only registered lobbyist on the account. The firm has done work for a slew of defense companies, including US-Italian Beretta Defense Technologies.
Caught our eye
Tunisia: The Heritage Foundation today released a report calling for a “renewed strategic partnership between the United States and Tunisia.” The report’s release follows a meeting between study author Anthony Kim, the editor of the Heritage Index of Economic Freedom, and Tunisian Olfa Hamdi, the short-lived former CEO of national carrier Tunisair and head of the Center for Strategic Studies on Tunisia, a new Washington think tank connected to lobbying firm Cornerstone Government Affairs.