Latest filings

Pakistan hires CIA veteran; Assange lawyer registers as foreign agent; US ex-lawmakers face off in Canadian rail merger fight

Welcome to Foreign Lobby Report’s biweekly roundup of all the latest lobbying developments. Every week we go through dozens of filings under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) to offer our readers the most comprehensive snapshot anywhere of the foreign governments, political groups and businesses trying to influence US policymaking and public opinion.

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New lobbying filings

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange‘s longtime lawyer, Barry Pollack, has registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) “out of an abundance of caution.” The registration covers “public advocacy” that Pollack plans to conduct on Assange’s behalf “in conjunction” with his legal representation, which is not covered by FARA. Pollack has represented Assange since February 2018, according to the filing. He is a former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and a partner at Washington law firm Robbins Russell but is representing his most famous client through his solo shop, the Law Offices of Barry J. Pollack. Pollack did not respond to a request for comment about the timing of his FARA registration.

The registration comes six months after the Sonoran Policy Group (aka Stryk Global Diplomacy) registered as a pro bono lobbyist for Blueprint for Free Speech, an Australian nonprofit seeking to pressure the Joe Biden administration to pardon Assange. The Australian citizen has sat in a British jail for more than two years as he fights a US extradition request on charges that he conspired to hack into a Pentagon computer network in 2010. Sonoran is led by Robert Stryk, an Oregon winery owner who made a fortune representing foreign clients during the Donald Trump administration.

Americas

Canada: MMGY Global, the world’s largest tourism marketing company, has registered a new $100,000 contract with the Greater Victoria Visitors & Convention Bureau under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). MMGY is to provide “planning, account management, branding and data strategy/analytics to promote tourism, increase brand awareness and positioning of Victoria, British Columbia as a tourist destination.” The contract was effective Feb. 2, 2021.

The Kansas City-based firm also registered new public relations contracts with three of its previous clients under FARA:

Haiti: Mercury Public Affairs has registered Katie Gregory (bio), a vice-president in the firm’s London office, as a foreign agent for the government of Haiti. She is expected to provide “media and communications consulting services” for the Caribbean country.

Mercury has had a contract with its parent company Mercury International UK to represent the office of the late President Jovenel Moise since 2018. While the contract doesn’t spell out specific fees, Mercury disclosed receiving $506,000 ($368,000 in fees and $138,000 in expenses) for its Haiti work in 2020. Gregory is also registered to lobby for Libya’s Government of National Unity and the Turkey-US Business Council (TAIK) via a previous lobbying filing.

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Asia

MMGY Global, the world’s largest tourism marketing company, terminated its registration on behalf of the Macao Government Tourism Office and the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority on Dec. 31, 2020, according to a new lobbying disclosure. The Kansas City-based firm had been promoting travel to both locations since 2019.

Kazakhstan: Michael Hutton, a former chief of staff to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) when he was still a House member, has terminated his lobbying for the Ministry of Justice of Kazakhstan as of May 1, according to a new lobbying filing. Hutton’s Arlington-based Hutton-Transcon Joint Venture had represented the ministry since December 2019 as a subcontractor to RJI Capital Corporation. Hutton’s firm reached out to Menendez staffers in February and March to “discuss recent parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan” and try to arrange a call with Kazakhstan’s ambassador to the US. The firm was paid $40,000 in the first half of 2021.

In addition to RJI, Kazakhstan still retains the services of BGR Government Affairs, Greenberg Traurig, Mercury Public Affairs, APCO Worldwide, Latham & Watkins and Herbert Smith Freehills. The resource-rich country is keen to promote itself as a safe destination for foreign investment even as it pursues a decade-long, $500 million international legal fight with a disgruntled oil and gas investor.

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Pakistan: A second member of Pakistan’s ruling Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) has reportedly hired lobbying help in Washington as the country looks to deepen ties with the Joe Biden administration. Robert Laurent Grenier of Grenier Consulting in Arlington has registered as a foreign agent on behalf of Iftikhar Ur Rehman Durrani of Islamabad, whom Grenier’s lobbying registration describes as being “supervised by senior Party officials [and] effectively under their direction, and under the direction of Pakistan government officials, as well.” Grenier is a CIA veteran who was the CIA station chief in Islamabad during the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and later served as the agency’s top counter-terrorism official from 2004 to 2006. The contract runs for six months from May 1 through the end of October, for $25,000 per month. According to Grenier’s filing, Durrani “disburses funds from the government of Pakistan.”

According to the lobbying registration, Grenier will “maintain contacts with U.S. government officials of both the executive and legislative branches, as well as with think tanks and other informed individuals, in addition to consulting with the client and the client’s associates, to determine how the scope of constructive relations between the U.S. government and the government of Pakistan might be enhanced, and will advise his Pakistani client and the
client’s associates accordingly, both through verbal and written communications.” Neither Grenier nor Durrani could be reached for comment.

Grenier is the second lobbyist to register as a foreign agent for a member of the PTI. Back in January, Bilal Ahmed Ghaffar, a member of the provincial assembly of Sindh who is close to Prime Minister Imran Khan, signed two year-long contracts worth a total of $7,000 a month with Chinar Consulting and Kashmir Action Network. Both firms were founded last October by Washington-based activist Carin Jodha Fischer. Fischer advocates on the issue of India’s control over Kashmir as well as counter-terrorism and other matters. Both accounts call on her to liaise with the Pakistani Embassy in Washington.

Meanwhile the only lobbying contract with the Pakistani government itself has been paused on April 15. The Pakistani Embassy in Washington hired Stephen Payne and his Houston firm Linden Government Solutions back in April 2020 on an unusual contract that called on the firm to receive funding from the diaspora community, which has yet to come through. Linden has notably initiated talks with the US International Development Finance Corporation to backstop Pakistani credit so the country can buy four million tons of US liquified natural gas.

Finally, the Washington nonprofit Council on Pakistan Relations last month hired two firms to help improve US-Pakistani relations. Fenton/Arlook, a new PR firm co-owned by Fenton Communications founder David Fenton and Fenton advocacy campaigns chief Ira Arlook, is being paid $25,000 per month to “inform American and international media about the council’s desire for productive diplomatic and economic relations between Pakistan and the United States.” The council has also retained Adnan Jalil, a congressional liaison for the 2016 Donald Trump campaign. Jalil’s firm Alpha Strategies lobbies for passage of a bill that would establish Reconstruction Opportunity Zones in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s border regions to allow textile and apparel goods from these areas to enter the United States duty-free. The Council on Pakistan Relations was founded by Michigan-based Pakistan-American healthcare entrepreneurs Mohammad Ashraf QaziAdil Jamal Akhtar and Iqbal Abdul Nasir.

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Taiwan: Former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) and his firm Gephardt Government Affairs have renewed their representation of Taiwan’s de facto embassy in Washington for the second half of the year. The contract is for $22,000 per month, the same as previously. Gephardt has lobbied for the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO) since 2013.


New business filings

Canada: Former Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) of Arent Fox has registered to lobby for Canadian Pacific Railway as the Calgary-based freight railroad looks to the Joe Biden administration to nix the proposed merger of its rival, Montreal-based Canadian National Railway, with Kansas City Southern. Dorgan is lobbying the US Surface Transportation Board regarding “merger and related issues” as Canadian Pacific looks to revive its own proposed merger with the US railroad. Dorgan has joined current members of North Dakota’s congressional in publicly opposing the Canadian Pacific, which they argue would reduce competition among rail operators in a part of the country that heavily depends on rail transportation to transport agricultural products. The belated registration was effective April 13, and Arent Fox also disclosed $50,000 in payments in the second quarter.

Lobbyists on the other side of the issue on behalf of Canadian National include former Reps. Ron Klink (D-Penn.) and Jim Moran (D-Va.) of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough and former New York Gov. George Pataki of Norton Rose Fulbright. The proposed $30 billion merger would create the first freight-rail network linking the United States, Canada and Mexico by connecting ports in the three countries. But it faces concerns from rail users including the American Chemistry Council, a trade association, about decreased competitition, the Transport Topics news site reports.

France: French insurance and financial services company AXA has extended its contract with Chicago-based public relations firm Edelman for six months through the end of the year. AXA hired the firm in January to “increase the visibility of Client and its leadership among key established stakeholder groups” in the United States.

Ireland: Irish aircraft leasing and finance company AerCap Holdings has hired Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld to provide “counsel on legal and policy matters relating to the North Atlantic air travel market to/from Europe.” The lobbying registration was effective June 15. Partner Sean D’Arcy is registered to lobby on the account.

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