Latest filings

UAE Embassy makes first influence hire of Biden era; CIA vet joins Congolese politician’s US campaign; Ennahda supporters restart lobbying amid Tunisia ‘coup’

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

Africa

Democratic Republic of the Congo: CIA veteran Edwin Alan Platt is the latest addition to Moise Katumbi‘s US influence team as the millionaire politician prepares for a possible presidential run in 2023. Platt, a two-decade veteran of the CIA and the National Security Agency with extensive experience in Africa and the Middle East, has been hired by King & Spalding to provide “operational guidance, situational awareness and political security assessments” to “individuals in contact with” Katumbi, according to a new filing under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The contract is for $7,500 per month, renewable month-to-month, and was effective July 9.

A business and former provincial governor who made a fortune in mining, Katumbi fled the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2016 after challenging incumbent President Joseph Kabila. He returned in 2019 following the election of Felix Tshisekedi and hired King & Spalding two months ago for €40,000 per month (around $48,500). The law firm in turn hired Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck last month for $20,000 per month. Former House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and State Department veteran Samantha Carl-Yoder are lobbying for Katumbi.

Brownstein’s lobbying is focused on fighting draft nationality legislation that would limit presidential candidates to those who have two Congolese parents, according to a new lobbying filing. The proposal would disqualify Katumbi, who has a Jewish Greek father. The firm’s lobbyists held a call on Aug. 4 with State Department officials Elizabeth Pelletreau and Karen Gilbride, a foreign affairs officer in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and followed up by sharing a timeline of alleged “voter suppression” attempts and attacks against critics of the proposed bill.

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Americas

Argentina: Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer has registered Lynn Fischer Fox (bio), a partner with the firm and former deputy assistant secretary of Commerce, as a foreign agent for the government of Argentina. The firm signed a $1.9 million lobbying contract with Argentina’s Ministry of International Trade and Foreign Investment in May 2020 for help with a massive debt restructuring and other economic issues, including the elimination of tariffs on biodiesel exports imposed under the Donald Trump administration. 

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Aruba: The Chicago-based Zeno Group has added senior vice president Natalia Lopez to its account with the Aruba Tourism Authority. The organization selected Zeno as its agency of record for North America for three years in March 2019.

El Salvador: Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer has registered principal international policy adviser Adrean Scheid (bio) on its contract with El Salvador. She is expected to provide “strategic advice and outreach in support of relations with the United States and multilateral institutions.”

The government of President Nayib Bukele signed a year-long, $1.2 million contract with Arnold & Porter in March as the country looks to negotiate a $1.3 billion deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The firm’s work is being led by former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Tom Shannon.

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Venezuela: Cornerstone Government Affairs is the latest firm to retroactively register as a foreign agent for work conducted on behalf of Venezuela’s national oil company after the Donald Trump administration switched control of its US operations over to the opposition. Cornerstone has disclosed $1.5 million for lobbying work conducted between Feb. 18, 2019, and May 16, 2020, on behalf of the ad hoc board of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) and its Houston refiner Citgo.

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Asia

Hong Kong: Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld terminated its registration on behalf of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council as of Jan. 27, according to a new lobbying filing. The firm had represented the council since 2015 and helped “protect, promote and develop the interests” of the special administrative region in the area of government relations with the US and “prevent or minimize any negative impact that action taken by the US, including action against Hong Kong’s major trading partners.” The firm’s latest annual contract renewal, for $429,000, was meant to cover the period from April 1 to March 31 but ended two months early, with Akin Gump getting paid $389,000.

BGR Government Affairs, Venable, Legislative Strategies Inc. and Jacobs Global Trade & Compliance remain registered as foreign agents for the council.

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Japan: The Fratelli Group terminated its registration on behalf of Japan as of March 31, according to a new lobbying filing. The firm had provided communications consulting services for the Embassy of Japan in Washington since December 2016 and was most recently paid $20,000 per month.

Kazakhstan: Anglo-Australian law firm Herbert Smith Freehills has extended its contract with APCO Worldwide to represent the Ministry of Justice of Kazakhstan for $120,000 for three months starting in June. The law firm hired APCO in March for an initial three months to provide “strategic communications services” in connection with “legal proceedings in the United States and other jurisdictions.”

Kazakhstan has been battling Moldovan businessman Anatolie Stati in US and European court for years over Kazakhstan’s seizure of Stati’s petroleum operations in 2010. APCO previously represented the ministry via Freehills from July 2020 to Jan. 15, 2021. Registered on the account are APCO senior director Jonathan “Jay” Solomon, the former chief foreign affairs for the Wall Street Journal, and director Alison Patch.

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Singapore: The Embassy of Singapore in Washington has extended its contract with the Fratelli Group for two years starting Aug. 1 at the previous rate of $18,000 per month, for a total of $432,000, with the option to extend for one year. The contract is for “communications consulting services” including “media monitoring, strategic counsel, message and materials development, and media and public outreach support..”

The embassy first hired the Washington communications firm in 2018 to monitor the media and position Singapore as a “longstanding and strategic partner” of the United States with Congress and the executive branch.

South Korea:  Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer has registered former Senate Finance Committee International Trade Counsel Brian Bombassaro on its account with the South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. The ministry signed a $33,000-per-month contract with the firm in February 2020 for “advocacy, outreach, and general legal services,” including meetings with members of Congress and administration officials as well as “legal analyses of U.S. trade and investment issues affecting the Republic of Korea and Korean companies.” The contract was extended in February through the end of the year for $36,000 per month.

Europe

Poland: Los Angeles marketing and communications agency CMGRP Entertainment of Los Angeles (dba Rogers & Cowan PMK) has terminated its registration on behalf of the Polish National Foundation (Polska Fundacja Narodowa) effective March 1, according to a new lobbying disclosure. The firm was hired in June 2018 for $10,000 per month to promote the foundation’s entertainment-related activities, including most recently the movies “Hidden Poland” and “I Love Poland.”

The foundation is funded by the country’s leading state-run companies and is close to the ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) Party. Its US spending came under fire two years ago when Polish media reported that it had paid $5.5 million between 2017 and 2019 to the White House Writers Group of former Ronald Reagan speechwriter Clark Judge to boost Poland’s image. That contract was terminated in April 2020.

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Middle East

Tunisia: Supporters of Tunisia’s embattled moderate Islamist party have signed a new US lobbying contract to push back against President Kais Saied, sparking a media firestorm in Tunis and adamant denials by Ennahda that it has anything to do with it.

The London-based Ennahda Party Diaspora Group signed a two-month, $30,000 contract with BCW (Burson Cohn & Wolfe) on July 29, four days after Saied suspended parliament, according to a new lobbying filing under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The New York-based global communications firm is tasked with “outreach to key stakeholders in the US, media support, and strategic communications counsel.”

The contract was signed by Ifhat Smith, who is identified in the filing as the diaspora group’s director. BCW executive vice president William McQuillen and senior vice president Shaila Manyam, an 11-year veteran of the US State Department, are registered as foreign agents on the account.

Read the story here.

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United Arab Emirates: The UAE Embassy in Washington has hired FGH Holdings (Finsbury Glover Hering) in its first new lobbying contract of the Joe Biden era. The contract is for $75,000 per month and runs from July 1 to Nov. 30, with the possibility of an extension. FGH will advise on “communications and government relations matters” and undertake “specific advocacy assignments” including “law enforcement cooperation to combat transnational criminal activities.” Managing director Joshua Gross (bio) is registered as a foreign agent on the account.

The new contract with FGH comes as the UAE’s regional rival and lobbying adversary Qatar has brought on no fewer than seven new firms since Biden’s election. The firm also lobbies for the UAE Mission to the UN and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. The UAE embassy previously retained FGH — formerly The Glover Park Group — in 2010 and 2020 to survey public opinion toward the Gulf country.

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Yemen: A longtime spokeswoman for Yemen’s Southern Transitional Council (STC) has registered as a lobbyist for the separatist group. Summer Ahmed of Michigan expects to provide “political guidance and strategic advocacy services” before Congress on behalf of the council, including meetings with Capitol Hill policymakers to encourage them “to
recognize South Yemen as an independent nation.” The registration was effective June 28.

The STC registered a Washington office under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) in May 2018 and opened another one in New York last year to focus on the United Nations. The council has also retained New York-based nonprofit advocacy firm Independent Diplomat since late 2018 to help handle outreach to the US Mission to the UN and the rest of the international community.

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Business lobbying

Suez (France): Suez North America, a New Jersey-based affiliate of French energy and utilities firm Suez Environnement, and Suez Water Technologies and Solutions in Pennsylvania have registered in-house lobbying arms. Senior vice president for government affairs Jon Freedman (bio), a former lobbyist for General Electric‘s water business, will lobby on “drinking water and wastewater legislation and regulations, water efficiency programs, water infrastructure funding programs, drinking water and wastewater funding programs, trade policies for environmental goods and services, and tax incentives for water projects.”


Caught our eye

China: “Nearly three dozen of the nation’s most influential business groups — representing retailers, chip makers, farmers and others — are calling on the Biden administration to restart negotiations with China and cut tariffs on imports,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

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