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Hungry lobby shops eye Afghan president’s visit; India taps PR firm to boost gem exports; top Mexican bank hires veteran Republican lobbyist

Hungry lobby shops eye Afghan president’s visit

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks at a press conference in Berlin on Dec. 5, 2014 / Shutterstock

With President Ashraf Ghani set to visit the White House this Friday, lobbyists across town have begun to prepare their pitches to represent a government that has been without Washington representation since last summer. As the US military heads for the exits after 20 years of war, Kabul is widely expected to look for outside help as it steps up its engagement with the Joe Biden administration over the coming months amid growing fears by the country’s leaders that they will be abandoned to a resurgent Taliban.

“Clearly cooperation between the US and Afghanistan is needed now more than ever,” one longtime lobbyist for foreign sovereigns told Foreign Lobby Report. “I’m sure there are many people (in town) who see the same thing.”

A review of lobbying records shows the Afghan government paid three firms a total of just under $400,000 since the last election in 2014.

Afghan lobbying (since 2014)

DLA Piper
Sept. 2018 – Aug. 2020
Hogan Lovells
Sept. 2018 – Feb. 2020
Sonoran Policy Group
Aug. 2017 – Nov. 2017
Source: Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)

In addition, several other firms have ties to President Ghani himself after helping champion his candidacy in 2014: Fenton Communications, Roberti + White and Sanitas International (interestingly, Sanitas represented Ghani’s challenger Abdullah Abdullah in the first round of that year’s campaign).

Meanwhile the US-based Afghanistan-U.S. Democratic Peace and Prosperity Council has been lobbying for a conditions-based withdrawal. The council has four lobbying and public relations firms on its payroll — Wise Capital Strategy; Bullpen Strategy Group; Jake Perry + Partners and DunCap Strategies — and is funded by Afghan businessman Mohammad Gul Raoufi. Three Afghan lawmakers sit on its board of advisers: Mir Haider AfzalyNaheed Farid and Haji Ajmal Rahmani

Afghan group lobbies against Sept. 11 troop withdrawal

New lobbying filings


Canada (Alberta): Canadian lobbying firm Crestview Strategy has disclosed a new contract with Crossroads Strategies on behalf of Alberta’s Ministry of Jobs, Economy and Innovation. The $10,000-a-month contract was effective April 9 and lasts until Oct. 31, unless rescinded earlier. Crestview’s managing director for the US, Maryscott Greenwood, and Beth Burke are expected to “assist the Province of Alberta in building a strategic government relations and public
affairs strategy, including direct advocacy with the United States Congress and the Executive Branch.”

Crossroads Strategies signed a year-long, $350,000 contract with the oil-rich province and part-owner of the Keystone XL pipeline back in November. Former Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and John Breaux (D-La.) are registered to lobby for the province. Following President Joe Biden‘s decision to rescind the permit for the pipeline, Alberta chose not to extend a separate $340,000 contract with JDA Frontline past its May 31 expiration date.

Canada province braces for fight with Biden over Keystone Pipeline


India: India’s Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council has hired Hill & Knowlton Strategies to help boost a labor-intensive industry hit hard by the coronavirus epidemic. The $160,000 contract runs from April through the end of the year, with Hill & Knowlton pocketing $135,000 in fees while another $25,000 is set aside to pay influencers (the firm has already disclosed receiving $15,000 in February). The council is sponsored by the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry but is controlled by its elected members.

The US promotion push comes as Indian jewelry exports fell 5% last month compared to 2019, Indian media report, in part due to pandemic-related labor restrictions. The industry is also concerned about potential US retaliatory tariffs over India’s digital services tax, which has an outsize effect on US tech giants.

The firm has registered nine employees across the US and Canada under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA):

India adds bipartisan duo to lobbying lineup

Middle East

Turkey: Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer has registered international policy specialist Christina Poehlitz to its accounts with the Federated States of Micronesia and Ankara-based SSTEK Savunma Sanayi Teknolojiler (Defense Industry Technologies). She was previously registered to lobby on the firm’s accounts with the governments of Argentina, Ecuador and El Salvador.

Arnold & Porter signed a six-month, $750,000 contract with SSTEK effective Feb. 1 for strategic advice and outreach to US commercial partners and stakeholders regarding Turkey’s potential return to the F-35 fighter jet program. SSTEK is wholly owned by the Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB), the government office that manages Turkey’s defense industry. In March Arnold & Porter signed an $80,000 contract with former Lockheed Martin executive Stephen Williams and his Alexandria-based firm Pentagon Strategies for help with the effort. The Donald Trump administration ejected Turkey from the multi-national consortium building the F-35 over Ankara’s purchase of Russian missile defense systems.

Turkey lobbies to get back in F-35 program
Former Lockheed Martin executive to be paid $80,000 to lobby on Turkey’s F-35 participation

Yemen: Yemen’s separatist Southern Transitional Council spend $159,000 in the six months through May to cover the operational offices of its New York and Washington offices, according to a new lobbying filing. During that time the Washington, DC office led by Abdulsalam Mused emailed US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking and Yemen desk officer Therese Postel.

Yemen separatists open New York office to lobby UN

Business lobbying

Mexico (Banco Azteca): Paris-based economic intelligence firm Avisa Partners has registered to lobby for Mexico’s Banco Azteca effective May 24 on “issues related to international banking.” Noe Garcia (bio), a partner in its Washington office, is registered to lobby for the bank, which specializes in micro-loans and depository services and is one of the country’s largest. Garcia previously lobbied for the bank via Signal Group Consulting, which he left in December for 2020 for Avisa (Signal represented the bank between October and December and was paid $10,000). Garcia is a veteran of the George W. Bush White House and Treasury Department and the office of then-Senate Minority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).

The lobbying comes as Banco Azteca owner Ricardo Salinas Pliego was rebuffed earlier this year in his efforts to have the Mexican central bank purchase US dollars of uncertain origin. The measure would have helped migrants who bring home US dollars but risked opening up the central bank to money laundering allegations, according to Bloomberg.

Caught our eye

Iran: Iran says that several state-linked news websites had been seized by the US government, the Associated Press reports, including the new site for English-languge Press TV. Don’t miss our profile of the US war critic turned Press TV contributor who registered as an Iranian foreign agent last year.