Latest filings

Mercury lobbies for pro-Ethiopia group; Israeli spyware company hires more help amid hacking allegations; HSBC hires Cornerstone amid pivot to China

Ex-members of Congress lobby for new Addis-approved Ethiopian diaspora group

Washington lobbying firm Mercury Public Affairs has picked up a new diaspora group endorsed by the Ethiopian government as Congress and the Joe Biden administration continue to press Addis Ababa over ethnic strife in the east African country.

The firm has registered four lobbyists on its account with the Pennsylvania-based American Ethiopia Public Affairs Committee (AEPAC), including former Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and former Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Fla.). Rounding out the lobbying team are Deirdre Stach and Jamiyl Peters, a former aide to Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.).

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New lobbying filings

Africa

Sudan: The latest lobbying disclosure from White & Case sheds new light on its outreach to Congress and the executive branch to shed Sudan’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Americas

Aruba: Daniel J. Edelman‘s Zeno Group has expanded the scope of work on behalf of the Aruba Tourism Authority to include a $63,000 paid social media campaign. The firm signed a $1.1 million statement of work for public relations for 2021 with the authority and a $75,000 statement of work to provide crisis and issues management and COVID-19 monitoring reports from April 1 through the end of the year. Aruba’s tourism authority selected Zeno as its agency of record for North America for three years in March 2019.

Barbados: TheGroup DC has renewed its contract with the government development agency Invest Barbados for 12 months starting March 1. The contract is for $50,000 per month, up from $30,000 previously. The firm has conducted commercial diplomacy services for Barbados since 2019. Registered on the account are:

  • Arthur Collins, a senior political strategist for Barack Obama‘s 2008 campaign;
  • Sudafi Henry, a former director of legislative affairs for then-Vice President Joe Biden;
  • Darrel Thompson, a former deputy chief of staff for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.);
  • Dwayne Bolton, a principal deputy assistant for congressional and intergovernmental affairs under President Donald Trump‘s energy secretaries Rick Perry and Dan Brouillette; and
  • Eriade Williams, previously a deputy chief of staff and legislative director to former Rep. Robert Brady (D-Penn.).
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Honduras: BGR Government Affairs has terminated its representation of the government of Honduras as of March 31, according to a new lobbying filing. BGR had represented Honduras for $60,000 per month since January 2020. The termination leaves only Gus West Government Affairs to provide public relations consulting for the central American country amid growing calls for the US to sanction President Juan Orlando Hernandez over alleged drug trafficking ties. The firm has worked for Honduras since 2016 and is paid $59,000 per month. Registered on the account are firm founder Gus West, president of the nonprofit Hispanic Institute in Washington; consultant Leonel Teller Sanchez, a former member of parliament and envoy to the European Union from Nicaragua; and consultant Richard Hernandez.

Panama: Daniel J. Edelman has registered senior adviser Maria del Pilar Conci on its $1.275 million contract to raise Panama’s profile in the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union. The effort is funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the world body’s global development network. The year-long contract began in October 2020 and calls on Edelman to create a strategic communications aimed at improving the country’s reputation internationally in cooperation with the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

Asia

Japan: The Embassy of Japan in Washington has renewed its contract with Prime Policy Group for 12 months starting April 1. The contract is for $250,000, down from $330,000 previously. Prime has represented Japan since 2019. The firm’s founder, Republican lobbyist Charlie Black, and President and CEO R. Scott Pastrick are registered on the account.

South Korea: The Korea International Trade Association in New York has registered director Sol Park as a foreign agent. Park replaces Joung Woo Park, who stepped down in February.

Middle East

Qatar: The Embassy of Qatar in Washington has extended its contract with Houston-based Bridge Builder Communications for two years, through June 2023, at the current rate of $22,000 per month ($528,000 total). The embassy hired the firm last year. Firm founder George Smalley is the only registered agent on the account and provides “programmatic and communications support to the foreign principal’s humanitarian and disaster assistance programs, including the Qatar Harvey Fund and the Qatar Haiti Fund, and advice and support regarding the foreign principal’s emergency preparedness planning.” Qatar is eager to maintain good relations with Texas, where state-run Qatar Petroleum owns a 70 percent stake in Golden Pass, a natural gas terminal outside of Houston. 

United Arab Emirates: The Department of Culture and Tourism of Abu Dhabi has extended its contract with New York PR firm the Brunswick Group for $180,000 for the five months from May 6 to Oct. 5.  The bulk of Brunswick’s work is for the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which opened in November 2017.


Business lobbying

NSO Group: Israeli spyware company the NSO Group has hired law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman to “provide advice on business development opportunities and strategies to educate potential business partners about NSO’s technologies, including legal advice on US government procurement regulations and corporate compliance policies.” The firm will also “provide assistance with education of government officials about NSO’s technology.” The contract is for $75,000 per month for six months starting June 1. Brian Finch (bio), a partner in the firm’s Washington office with extensive cybersecurity experience, is registered as a foreign agent on the account. NSO parent company Q Cyber Technologies has also retained the services of Mercury Public Affairs since 2019.

The registration comes as NSO’s hopes of going public are being plagued by accusations that it helped authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere spy on their critics. The company is notably battling a lawsuit from Facebook over the alleged hacking of its messaging application WhatsApp. NSO has denied allegations that its clients used its technology to hack hundreds of human rights activists and journalists. This week, the company released what it characterized as the industry’s “first annual Transparency and Responsibility Report” in which it detailed its “extensive safeguards against misuse of technology.”

HSBC Technology & Services USA: The US affiliate of British bank HSBC has hired Cornerstone Government Affairs for “outreach to Capitol Hill and the Administration on international banking issues.” The bank has been closing down its US retail business as it refocuses on mainland China and Hong Kong, where it was founded.

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