- Ukraine fight against Russian pipeline dominates July lobbying spending
- Trump-connected Robert Stryk unwinds foreign lobbying under Biden
- Australian rare earths miner lobbies US after cutting deal with China
- Congolese politician steps up US lobbying over 2023 election eligibility
- Qatar renews with Sen. Graham aide for two years
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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Ukraine gas industry’s $1.7 million rearguard fight against Russian pipeline led new lobbying in July
Ukraine’s gas industry led new lobbying and PR spending last month as the country looks to mitigate the impact of President Joe Biden‘s decision not to block Russia’s pipeline to Germany, according to a Foreign Lobby Report review of filings with the Department of Justice in July.
Together the Ukraine contracts add up to $1.7 million out of just over $5 million in new contracts filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) in July, up from about $3 million last month. Other noteworthy contracts include South Koreans seeking closer ties with Pyongyang, a stillborn contract with a Libyan presidential contender and a former CIA station chief in Islamabad now lobbying for Pakistan.
Check out the complete here.
New lobbying filings
Robert Stryk, an unpaid West Coast adviser for Donald Trump‘s 2016 campaign who went on to make a fortune in lobbying under the former president, barely conducted any political activities on behalf of his sovereign clients in the first half of the year, according to a new lobbying filing.
Stryk’s firm, the Sonoran Policy Group (now renamed Stryk Global Diplomacy), disclosed just one contact — a Jan. 11 phone call with Trump’s deputy assistant Ja’Ron Smith to discuss a pardon for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on behalf of Australian advocacy group Blueprint for Free Speech (Trump did not pardon Assange before leaving office). The firm still managed to rake in more than $790,000 during the period: $650,000 from the Kenyan government and another $140,000 from El Salvador. The firm disclosed receiving around $17.9 million from two dozen foreign clients under Trump (see chart below).
Sonoran terminated its representation of the government of El Salvador on Feb. 14 and with Pakistani businessman Hashim Mughal on Jan. 21, according to the filing. Mughal hired Sonoran last year for $2 million to help build pressure on Saudi Arabia to release his former associate, Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud, one of 11 royals arrested in January 2018 on orders of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after holding a rare protest (Related: Mercury lobbies for release of jailed Saudi royals).
Sonoran continues to be registered as a lobbyist for the government of Kenya, the Democratic Party of Albania and the African Energy Chamber as well as a slew of foreign individuals including former Angolan presidential daughter Isabel dos Santos‘ Terra Peregrin, Italian businessman Saro Spadaro and jailed Algerian businessman Ali Hadad. He also signed new contracts with Israeli-Kazakh oligarch Alexander Mashkevitch.
The drop off in foreign lobbying mirrors that of Ballard Partners, another Trump-connected firm that no longer has any foreign sovereign clients after seeing a $14 million payday under the former president. Ballard has continued to sign up domestic clients, however.
Dates of representation
Embassy of New Zealand
Dec. 2016 – July 2017
Office of the President of the Czech Republic
March 2017 – Dec. 2017
Korea International Trade Association
May 2017 – June 2017
Ministry of Interior, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
May 2017 – June 2017
Embassy of the Republic of Kenya
June 2017 – present
The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Aug. 2017 – Nov. 2017
Embassy of Iceland
Oct. 2017 – Jan. 2019
Democratic Republic of Congo
(through Mer Security & Communications Systems)
Feb. 2018 – Jan. 2019
(Serbian arms dealer, via Venable)
Feb. 2018 – Dec. 2018
Embassy of The Kingdom of Bahrain
Feb. 2018 – Oct. 2019
May 2018 – Dec. 2018
March 2020 – present
Democratic Party of Albania
June 2018 – present
Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal
June 2018 – Aug. 2018
Federal Government of Somalia
Aug. 2018 – March 2019
Saud Abdul Aziz al-Arfaj
(Kuwaiti oil magnate)
Feb. 2019 – Dec. 2019
Zury Mayte Rios Sosa de Weller
(Guatemalan presidential candidate)
April 2019 – June 2019
Aden Osman Hussein
(Elite Consulting Group, Somalia)
June 2019 – Dec. 2019
African Energy Chamber
(South African trade organization)
Aug. 2019 – present
(Portuguese holding company controlled by
Angolan billionaire Isabel dos Santos)
Dec. 2019 – present
Reinaldo Munoz Pedroza
(Venezuela attorney general)
Jan. 2020 – Feb. 2020
Zari David Kovo
(Israeli property developer)
Jan. 2020 – April 2020
(on behalf of imprisoned Saudi prince
Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud)
May 2020 – Jan. 2021
$2 million contract
(imprisoned Algerian businessman)
July 2020 – present
$10 million contract
Republic of El Salvador State Intelligence Agency
Aug. 2020 – Feb. 2021
Democratic Republic of the Congo: Lobbyists for Congolese politician Moise Katumbi contacted several US government offices last week as they step up their campaign to get the Democratic Republic of the Congo to back off draft nationality legislation that would bar Katumbi from running for president in 2023 because he does not have two Congolese parents.
International law expert Milos Ivkovic (bio) has newly registered as a foreign agent for Katumbi. In his filing with the Department of Justice, Ivkovic, a lawyer with Austrian law firm Oblin, wrote that he was retained pro bono by Katumbi’s “legal representatives” in order to provide a “bona fide expert’s opinion” on the issues of voting and human rights in the Congo during meetings in Washington. The filing says he met last week with staffers for Sens. James Risch (R-Idaho), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and the State Department’s Africa and human rights bureaus. Ivkovic marks the fourth registration for Katumbi under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) in recent weeks following King & Spalding, Brownstein Hyatt and CIA veteran Edwin Alan Platt.
Separately, a new lobbying disclosure from King & Spalding shows that the firm has been trying to get lawmakers to press the Biden administration to speak up against the draft bill. The firm reached out to the offices of Sens. Coons and Hagerty as well as Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, with a form letter calling the nationality provision “discriminatory on its face” and arguing that it violates international law.
A State Department spokesperson tells Foreign Lobby Report that US Ambassador to the DRC Michael Hammer “has made clear publicly and privately the US government’s concerns about the proposed nationality law,” notably via a July 8 retweet echoing UN special representative Bintou Keita’s call for “inclusive elections” and warning against “the potentially dangerous consequences of a debate cleaving on nationality.”
‘Furthermore,” the State Department spokesperson went on, “the US view is that the next election should occur in 2023 consistent with the Congolese constitution, be free and fair, and be held with transparency.”
France: Chicago-based public relations firm Edelman is touting AXA‘s embrace of President Joe Biden‘s green agenda as part of its $150,000 contract to boost the French insurance giant’s profile in the US.
Qatar: The Embassy of Qatar in Washington has renewed its $50,000-a-month lobbying contract with Neale Creek for another two years, starting Sept. 1. The firm’s founder, Andrew King, is a former deputy chief of staff to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). King is the only registered agent on the account. He began lobbying for the embassy in September 2019 as Qatar battled regional rivals Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for influence in Washington after the two countries imposed an embargo on Doha in June 2017. King is tasked with lobbying the US government and implementing a public relations strategy for the promotion of business with Qatar.
Ionic Rare Earths Limited (Australia): Australian mining company Ionic Rare Earths Limited has hired Military Diplomacy Strategies of Tampa to lobby on “issues related to the production and sale of rare earth products.” The company is developing a rare earth oxide deposit in Makuutu, Uganda. Earlier this year the company signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding with China Rare Metals and Rare Earth, a subsidiary of rare earths miner Aluminium Corporation of China (Chinalco).
The lobbying registration was effective July 8. Military Diplomacy Strategies founder Jill Kelley (bio), the first Honorary Ambassador to the International Military Coalition Forces at US Central Command, is registered to lobby on the account. This is the first lobbying registration for both Military Diplomacy Strategies and Ionic.
Terragene (Argentina): The Texas-based subsidiary of Argentinian infection prevention specialist Terragene has hired Democratic government affairs firm Blue Star Strategies to lobby on the US Food and Drug Administration’s “approval process for innovative biological indicator products and growth of Terragene’s business in the U.S.” Blue Star co-founder and COO Sally Painter is registered to lobby on the account, which was effective July 15.
Caught our eye
Rich Ghazal, the new executive director of advocacy group In Defense of Christians, is claiming a lobbying win alongside the Armenian National Committee of America and the Hellenic American Leadership Council after 27 House members joined a letter sent Monday to Secretary of State Antony Blinken asking him to suspend US drone technology transfers to Turkey pending a review of proliferation concerns and attacks on civilians and US allies.