- Ukraine energy lobby hires Arent Fox for $1.26 million amid Nord Stream 2 showdown
- Algeria loses its last lobbyist
- Former congressman lobbies for jailed Saudi royals
- Venezuela-linked Bulgarian bank seeks to mend reputation
- Sidley Austin registers lawyer on $350,000 contract with Vietnam central bank
- Brazil’s Embraer hires Tallahassee firm
- Revealed: Mercury paid $50,000 per month for Uganda work
- Mercury connects Libyan PM Dabaiba with Congress
- Israel extends Shalom Corps fundraising
- Peru ends trade lobbying after blueberry tarrifs win
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
Algeria: The Embassy of Algeria has ended its 14-year relationship with Foley Hoag, leaving the North African country without any Washington lobbyists to counter its rival Morocco’s influence operations. In a new filing for the six months through March, the firm said its contract with Algeria was terminated March 31 after being effectively dormant since the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic. Foley Hoag had represented the embassy since 2007 but has not disclosed any lobbying or payments since March 2020.
“Contract with The Government of the People’s Republic of Algeria was suspended at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and has never been resumed,” the firm wrote in its filing. “We have determined to terminate the contract for the foreseeable future.” Former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Gare Smith and Isa Mirza, a former aide to Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), had been registered to lobby for Algeria.
“They don’t have any organized effort going here – just the infrequent or episodic efforts of their friends.”_ Former Algeria lobbyist David Keene
The embassy was also briefly represented by former National Rifle Association President David Keene and his wife Donna Weisner Keene of Keene Consulting from November 2018 to April 30, 2020. Keene told Foreign Lobby Report that Algeria ended its lobbying when the Covid-19 epidemic and the fall in oil prices led the government of new President Abdelmadjid Tebboune to cut spending. As a result, Algeria has no lobbying firms to press for the reversal of the Donald Trump administration’s recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara, where Algeria supports a referendum on independence for the native Sahrawi people. Secretary of State Tony Blinken reportedly told Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita in April that Trump’s policy would stay in place for now.
“I do think [the Algerians] have a need now [for lobbyists], because what they’re relying on in this country is just the fact that they have some friends — (Sen.) Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and others in the Senate who are fighting to do something about the mistake that the Trump administration made in terms of trading the Western Sahara off to the Moroccans,” Keene said (Inhofe and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) led 25 colleagues on a letter asking President Joe Biden to reverse the decision in February). “But they don’t have any organized effort going here, just the infrequent or episodic efforts of their friends.”
Liberia: The Liberian International Ship & Corporate Registry (LISCR), the US company that manages the African nation’s ship registry, has registered five more people as foreign agents: Executive co-chairmen Elan Cohen and Adam Cohen, Chief Operating Officer Alfonso Castillero Castro, Vice President of LNG & Offshore Dallas Smith and Director of Sanctions Compliance Irina Nossova. Liberia is the world’s second most popular “flag of convenience”, behind only Panama, allowing more than 3,700 foreign-owned ships to register under its flag. The country has long battled what it calls the “outdated” reputation for poor safety records and tax dodging associated with the flag of convenience term.
The registry also retains the services of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck to lobby on its behalf. Former House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) lobbies on that account.
Libya: Mercury Public Affairs disclosed $1 million in payments for its work on behalf of the Libyan government during the first half of 2021, bringing the total to $2 million since it first registered to represent the Tripoli-based authorities against rival power centers in the east in April 2019. Since this March the firm has been representing the transitional Government of National Unity (GNU) via its London affiliate Mercury International UK and multiplying congressional contacts ahead of elections slated for this December.
Former Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and former Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Fla.), both co-chairmen with the firm, are leading the outreach to their former colleagues. Garcia met with House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) on April 10 and May 18 and with Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) on June 27. He also set up a June 15 phone call between Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), chairman of the HFAC Middle East panel, and GNU Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dabaiba.
Meanwhile Vitter helped organize an April 22 call between Dabaiba and Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), the top Republican on SFRC and a June 18 Zoom call between Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Libyan Oil Minister Mohamed Oun. Vitter also organized Zoom briefings for House Armed Services Committee and SFRC staff with Mohammed Ali Abdallah, the GNU’s senior adviser for US affairs, on May 21 and June 10 respectively. Finally, Vitter spoke with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) about Libyan affairs on April 6 and May 11.
Uganda: Mercury Public Affairs is being paid $50,000 per month for its work on behalf of Uganda, according to a new lobbying disclosure for the first half of the year. The firm has been representing the government of President Yoweri Museveni through its London affiliate Mercury International UK since April amid international criticism of the February election that saw Museveni re-elected to a sixth term. Robert Leverett Smith (bio), a managing director in the firm’s Washington office, held phone calls with five staffers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Uganda’s behalf in June according to the filing.
Peru: K&L Gates terminated its registration on behalf of Peru’s Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism on Feb. 10, just nine days after gettting hired by Morris Manning & Martin, after the US International Trade Commission (ITC) opted not to recommend trade remedies. The Donald Trump administration had opened an investigation last year into whether blueberry imports from Latin America are harming US producers. K&L Gates did not disclose any payments or lobbying for Peru. US agricultural lobbies have vowed to pursue trade remedies in Congress.
China: The China National Tourist Office in New York has registered Kailin Lu as a foreign agent.
Pakistan: Tanweer Ahmed of Houston, Texas has registered as a foreign agent after being appointed deputy secretary of Pakistan’s ruling Tehreek-e-lnsaf party (PTI) for the North America region.
South Korea: K&L Gates has registered new contracts with South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and the Korea International Trade Association (KITA). The contract with the ministry runs from Feb. 1 to July 1 and is worth $282,000; the engagement with KITA is for $200,000 and runs from Feb. 1 to Jan. 31, 2022. K&L Gates has represented the ministry since 2018 and KITA since last year.
South Korea: Squire Patton Boggs has targeted Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, as a key get for the Partner with Korea Act. The bill from Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Young Kim (R-Calif.) would create a special E-4 visa category, numbering 15,000 annually, for highly skilled Koreans to work in hard to fill “speciality occupation” jobs.
Vietnam: Sidley Austin partner and Government Strategies group leader Michael Edward Borden (bio) has formally registered as a foreign agent for the State Bank of Vietnam. He is the first to do so after the firm signed a contract to represent the central bank in April following the Donald Trump administration’s designation of the country as a currency manipulator last December. The Joe Biden administration suspended the designation this spring.
Borden will provide “legal analysis, advice, reports, and related support to the State Bank of Vietnam in connection with the review of its currency valuation practices under applicable U.S. law,” according to his registration. He will also “develop [a] negotiation strategy for use with U.S. agencies in review of Vietnam’s currency valuation practices under applicable U.S. law.” The registration also says Borden is to be paid $350,000 (fees were redacted in the original contract). Former Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), a partner with the firm who served as chairman of the House Ways and Means tax panel, and Andrew Shoyer, the co-leader of the firm’s Global Arbitration, Trade and Advocacy practice, are also expected to work on the account.
Bulgaria: Former State Department official Marshall Harris of Alexandria Group International has picked up Bulgaria’s Investbank as a client after making a name for himself defending Bulgarian companies from alleged extortion by the state. The bank was investigated and cleared in 2019 by Bulgarian authorities investigating suspected money laundering after millions of euros were transferred into its accounts from Venezuela’s state-run oil company PDVSA, Reuters reported. Negative perceptions continue to plague the bank.
The contract is for $31,000 per month for six months from July 15, 2021 until Jan. 14, 2022. The Alexandria Group is notably expected to “contact key members of both houses of the U.S. Congress and U.S. Administration officials
from relevant departments and agencies in Washington, U.S. Embassy Sofia, and elsewhere abroad as necessary to advance the BANK’S business and reputational goals as well as any related corporate enterprises.” Registered alongside Harris as a foreign agent on the account is senior policy adviser Angel Velitchkov of Lincoln, Nebraska.
Ukraine: Ukraine’s energy lobby has hired Washington white shoe law firm Arent Fox for “legal advisory and U.S. government relations services” as the country deals with the Joe Biden administration’s decision not to block Russia’s gas pipeline to Germany. The contract with the Ukrainian Federation of Employers of the Oil and Gas Industry (UFEOGI) is worth $1.26 million and runs for one year starting July 16. The engagement is expected to include “outreach to U.S. Government and Executive Branch” and “engagement with other relevant U.S. stakeholders and policymakers” regarding “priorities for developing Ukraine’s energy resources and how those priorities support U.S.
security goals.” This includes legal advice “on the U.S. Government’s position going forward on Nord Stream 2” and on “U.S. sanctions and U.S. sanctions policy.”
Jasmine Zaki (bio), an associate attorney with the firm, is the only registered foreign agent on the account to date. David Tafuri (bio), a partner in the firm’s trade and investment group who recently joined Arent Fox from Dentons, is identified as a point of contact in the contract but is only expected to provide legal services that do not require registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
The contract comes as the federation recently hired New York-based Karv Communications for help “improving the image of the oil and gas industry of Ukraine” and “promoting energy security issues in the US economic and political media,” including “Nord Stream 2 related sanctions.” That contract is for $420,000 and runs for seven months, from July 1 through Jan. 31, 2022. The federation has also retained the services of Yorktown Solutions, a firm led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) 2016 campaign adviser Daniel Vajdich, for $960,000 per year since January 2020 to lobby Congress (Yorktown lobbied for Ukraine’s largest national oil and gas company Naftogaz before that).
Israel: Berger Hirschberg Strategies has extended its contract to fundraise for Israel’s government-backed Shalom Corps from July 1 through May 31, 2022. The contract is for $10,000 per month, down from $15,000 when the firm was first hired back in March.
Launched in 2019 to promote volunteering by Jewish youth, the nonprofit is a joint effort between the Jewish Agency and Mosaic United (Mosaic is a partnership between the Diaspora Affairs ministry and Jewish philanthropists). Founded by presidential campaign veterans Stephanie Berger and Rachel Hirschberg, Berger Hirschberg bills itself as “Washington D.C. and New York City’s premier Democratic political fundraising firm.”
Saudi Arabia: Former Rep. Toby Moffett (D-Conn.) has registered as a foreign agent in connection with Mercury Public Affairs‘ lobbying campaign to free imprisoned Saudi royals, business leaders and activists, including former crown prince and interior minister Mohammad bin Nayef. Mercury is working to set up an event with members of Congress and their counterparts in Europe this September on behalf of a law firm representing Saudis jailed as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman‘s crackdown on dissent and alleged corruption. According to another filing, Moffett reached out to nine congressional offices from April 22 through the end of June:
- Senate Foreign Relations Middle East subcommittee Chairman Chris Murphy (D-Conn.);
- House Foreign Affairs Committee Vice Chairman Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.);
- House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations subcommittee Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.);
- Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Co-Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.);
- House Armed Services Committee member Ro Khanna (D-Calif.);
- Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.);
- Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Conn.);
- Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.); and
- Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.).
“We are working with an array of groups and individuals focused on the denying of human rights in Saudi Arabia,” Moffett told Foreign Lobby Report. “We are helping concerned members of the US Congress to connect with their counterparts in the UK Parliament as well as the EP in Brussels.
Also registered as foreign agents on the account are George Tucker, a managing director in Mercury’s London office who previously served as a top British diplomat in Kenya, and London office vice president Toby Denselow. Moffett joined Mercury as a co-chairman of its Washington office in October 2020 and has since registered to lobby for Zimbabwe, Libya’s transitional Government of National Unity, the Turkey-US Business Council (TAIK) and the US affiliate of Chinese video surveillance company Hikvision. Mercury is being paid $58,000 per month for its Saudi-related work.
Saudi Arabia: Qorvis/MSLGroup Americas has registered senior account executive Daniel Tanner on its accounts with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Embassy of Yemen in Washington, the King Salman Humanitarian Aid & Relief Center and the Muslim World League in Mecca. Meanwhile intern Mohammad Saud Alsati is registered for Saudi Arabia and the Muslim World League.
Brazil: Brazilian aerospace manufacturer Embraer has hired Rubin, Turnbull & Associates of Tallahassee to lobby on appropriations and aviation issues. The newly disclosed registration was effective April 1. Registered to lobby on the account is Jodi Bock Davidson, a former aide to Reps. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.) and former Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.). King & Spalding is also registered to lobby for the company.
Canada: Washington government relations firm Tai Ginsberg & Associates has belatedly registered to lobby for Canadian National Railway via Blank Rome Government Affairs, effective April 1. Firm principal Jason Tai, a former chief of staff to former Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), and directors Sean Winkler and Gus Maples are lobbying on “post-enactment issues from the Fixing Americas Surface Transportation Act … including railroad regulation and safety provisions.” The firm was previously registered as a subcontractor to Chambers, Conlon & Hartwell until April 1.
Canadian National Railway is notably lobbying the Surface Transportation Board to approve its proposed $30 billion merger with Kansas City Southern. The merger would create the first freight-rail network linking the United States, Canada and Mexico by connecting ports in the three countries but faces pressure from antitrust advocates and regulators. The company has five other firms in its corner: BGR Government Affairs, Dentons, Norton Rose Fulbright, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough and Envision Strategy. Lobbying for rival Canadian Pacific Railway, which is also courting Kansas City Southern, are Arent Fox and Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas.