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Saudi digital news platform dominates June influence spending

A $1.6 million Saudi investment in a fledgling English-language digital news platform dominated foreign influence disclosures last month, according to a Foreign Lobby Report review of filings with the Department of Justice in June.

Taqnia Engineering and Technology Services (Taqnia ETS) has hired US video production company Prime Time Media to create content for the new social media platform, as we first reported June 8.

US-based journalists Eric Ham and Craig Boswell are expected to anchor online shows on the channel, which has yet to go live. Taqnia is fully owned by the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), the sovereign wealth fund chaired by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In other influence news, Congolese millionaire politician Moise Katumbi is once again lobbying Washington ahead of the 2023 presidential election. After a brief lobbying pause following his return from exile in 2019, the former governor of Katanga province has hired international law firm King & Spalding to arrange meetings with Congress and the Joe Biden administration (read the story here).

Indonesia’s Ministry of Defense has hired a Washington law firm that specializes in military procurement as it eyes a $125 billion spending spree on new weapons over the next three years. The ministry is led by Prabowo Subianto, a controversial military leader who has been barred from entry into the US because of alleged human rights abuses (read the story here).

And Turkey has started rebuilding a lobbying operation decimated by defections amid pressure from the Armenian diaspora over Ankara’s support for Azerbaijan in last year’s conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh (read the story here).

Turkey scrambles to rebuild decimated lobbying team as tensions with US pile up

Meanwhile an Iranian opposition group opposed to President Joe Biden‘s nuclear negotiations with Tehran has hired lobbying giant BGR Government Affairs to showcase its annual international conference this month (read the story here). And the Afghan government tapped Squire Patton Boggs to help score congressional meetings for President Ashraf Ghani during his visit last month (more on that here).

Source: US Department of Justice / Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)
Source: US Department of Justice / Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)

In addition, lobbying and public relations firms disclosed 15 contract extensions and renewals worth more than $4 million during the month of June. Among the most noticeable is Mercury Public Affairs‘ year-long renewal with Mercury International UK on behalf of the government of Zimbabwe. The engagement brought in $813,000 in 2020.

Zimbabwe extends lobbying against US sanctions that still bite post-Mugabe

Source: US Department of Justice / Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)