Latest filings

Rational PR nabs BLJ executive for Kenya, El Salvador work; Chinese solar company hit by Biden order hires new lobbyist; South Sudan launches oil licensing despite US sanctions

New lobbying filings

Kenya / El Salvador: Washington lobbying and public relations firm Rational 360 has nabbed the head of New York PR firm BLJ Worldwide‘s Washington office and put him to work on its two new foreign lobbying contracts.

Francisco Campos Ortiz

Francisco Campos Ortiz is newly registered to lobby for the governments of Kenya and El Salvador. Now a director for Rational 360, Campos had been with BLJ since August 2019. This is the first time he registers under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

The move comes as Rational 360, founded by former former White House communications director Patrick Dorton, signed a year-long, $600,000 contract in April with the Kenyan embassy in Washington as Nairobi eyes a free trade agreement with the US. The firm previously signed a $65,000-a-month contract to represent the government of President Nayib Bukele in El Salvador last October.

BLJ meanwhile has seen its foreign lobbying dry up. The firm only remains registered to lobby for the China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF) after its work for the embassies of China and Pakistan ended last fall, according to the firm’s most recent lobbying filing. Previous work for Chile and Panama has also ended even though the contracts remain listed as active under FARA.

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South Sudan: The South Sudanese oil ministry’s new lobbying and PR firm is promoting the country’s first oil licensing round despite lingering US sanctions. The Ministry of Petroleum hired French-run New York firm AZ Media PR for $280,500 in September to help remove sanctions. The firm is the only one actively lobbying for South Sudan, with Gainful Solutions and Sanitas International reporting no activity since 2019 despite still being registered with the US Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

“According to new studies commissioned by the Ministry approximately 90% of the country’s oil and gas reserves remain unexplored — which means there are unprecedented opportunities for international investors,” the firm said in a press release disclosed under FARA. “South Sudan has made significant progress in returning to peace and stability, and the government is keen to open up the energy sector to new investments.”

Despite the upbeat assessment, South Sudan’s Ministry of Petroleum and key officials remain under US sanctions imposed after civil war erupted in 2013 between followers of President Salva Kiir and former First Vice President Riek Machar. And the UN warns that a unity government agreed to in February 2020 hasn’t prevented numerous outbreaks of inter-ethnic conflict.

The lingering tensions and uncertainty have create a situation where “the south Sudanese want to get married but the Americans just want a date,” said NJ Ayuk, the executive chairman of the African Energy Chamber in South Africa and founder of the Centurion Law Group based in Equatorial Guinea.

“[The sanctions] are going to be a huge impediment to any US investment because they will need [US government] permission to export US technology to South Sudan,” he told Foreign Lobby Report from an energy conference in Juba, South Sudan.”There is no doubt that US companies offer the best technology, the best skill set, the best know-how in the business. [The South Sudanese] have tried with Chinese companies for many years, and it does not work well. They have had Russian companies; it has not really gone well. And so I think the Canadians and the Americans are the best hope, but you have to create an enabling environment to bring them together.”

Right now, he said, only big companies with the “right kinds of lawyers” to engage on export restrictions with the Department of Commerce.

“South Sudan has to get its act together. It has to show this current administration that it’s willing to have a stable, sustainable peace,” he said. “And that stable, sustainable peace will get rid of the sanctions and technology restrictions.”

South Sudan oil ministry lobbies to lift sanctions


Haiti: Sorini Samet & Associates scored three dozen meetings with key legislative and executive offices in the six months through May on behalf of Haiti’s private manufacturing sector, the Association des Industries d’Haiti (Haitian Industry Association), or ADIH. These include Assistant US Trade Representative for Textiles Bill Jackson, House Ways and Means chief trade counsel Alexandra Whittaker and Viviana Bovo, the senior adviser for Western Hemisphere affairs for Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

The trade-focused firm is lobbying for the extension of the HOPE and HELP trade preference programs, which support textile and apparel exports to the US. Although the program expires Sept. 30, 2025, documents shared with Congress states that action is needed immediately to attract foreign investment as the country’s economy tries to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The group is also recommending that Congress make changes to the current program that would make additional, non-sensitive items eligible for the program and modify the rules of origin for some items (see chart below).


China (Huawei): Ruder Finn has registered executive trainee Isabel Manella as a foreign agent on its $1.45 million account with Chinese tech giant Huawei. The company’s US subsidiary in Plano, Texas, Huawei Technologies USA, signed a $1.45 million contract with Ruder Finn at the end of October for “strategic counsel, media relations, analyst relations, data insights, content strategy and policy communications.”

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Japan: The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) has registered director Yuri Fujita under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). “As Director in the General Affairs Department at JETRO New York, I oversee the activities of JETRO NY on behalf of JETRO headquarters in Tokyo and promote mutually beneficial trade and economic relations between the United States and Japan,” Fujita’s registration states. “My activities may include povision of information and materials related to the Japanese economy and business.”

Japan: Hill & Knowlton Strategies has registered account manager Christine Elizabeth King as a foreign agent on its contract with the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). She will provide “media monitoring and strategic advice and counsel on communications” for the company. Hill & Knowlton has worked for TEPCO’s legal counsel Munger, Tolles and Olson since 2013 regarding litigation stemming from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. US sailors have sued TEPCO and General Electric for $1 billion, claiming they suffered radiation injuries during their response to the disaster.

South Korea: The left-leaning Center for International Policy has terminated its foreign lobbying registration on behalf of the Korea Foundation as of Dec. 31. The center had registered last fall for the Korean think tank partly funded by South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Henri Feron, a senior fellow on East Asia and International Law at CIP, was awarded a one-year, $30,000 grant to conduct a study aimed at identifying a “a middle ground for all three conflict dimensions in Korea — the Korean War, the Korean Peninsula in Sino-American rivalry, and nuclear weapons.” The center objected to registering with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) but felt compelled to under the department’s increasingly expansive interpretation of the law in recent years.

Justice Department asks grant-funded NGOs to register as foreign agents

Middle East

Qatar: The Ashcroft Law Firm now says subcontractor Nathan Brennan‘s registration a year ago as a foreign agent for the government of Qatar was in error. “Mr. Brennan working on behalf of Qatar apparently was not contemplated. Nor did Mr. Brennan ever provide services to Qatar,” the firm said in a new lobbying disclosure. Former US Attorney General John Ashcroft‘s law firm has advised Doha on anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing compliance since 2017, with $2.5 million paid up front.

Business lobbying (Lobbying Disclosure Act)

China: Washington lobbying firm Kountoupes Denham Carr & Reid has registered to lobby for the US affiliate of China’s LONGi Solar Technology, effective June 21. The solar panel manufacturer’s products reportedly contain polysilicon from the Daqo New Energy Corp., one of four companies added to the Commerce Department’s export blacklist last week for their alleged role in human rights violations against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Firm founder Lisa Kountoupes, who served as special assistant to President Bill Clinton for legislative affairs, will lobby on “solar technology and manufacturing” issues. The firm replaces Sidley Austin, which lobbied for ​California-based LONGi Solar Technology (U.S.) from November 2017 until  March 31, 2021.

Honduras: McLarty Inbound has registered to lobby for the Honduran affiliate of Mexican engineering and construction company Constructora y Edificadora GIA+A (Grupo Ingenieria Arquitectura y Asociados), effective June 1. Managing partner Stephen Donehoo (bio), a former military intelligence officer specializing in Latin America, and regional director Alma Caballero (bio), will lobby on “economic development in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala” for GIA Honduras.

McLarty notably lobbies for the five energy companies with which Russian pipeline developer Nord Stream 2 AG has signed financing agreements and recently signed on with Mexico’s retirement fund administrators’ association.

Caught our eye

Libya: Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dabaiba has taken over control of the office charged with tracing billions of dollars worth of assets embezzled under Moamar Gadhafi‘s rule, Africa Intelligence reports. Dabaiba’s cousin, former infrastructure development chief Ali Ibrahim Dabaiba, is a prime suspect in the affair. The news comes as the Libya Asset Recovery & Management Office (LARMO) recently hired Holland & Knight and Baker & Hostetler for help recovering the assets.

Libya taps US law firms to help recover billions in assets stolen by Gadhafi