Latest filings

Italian tenor Bocelli hires tax lobbyists amid $8 million IRS dispute; ex-Rep. Wynn lobbies for sanctioned El Salvador businessman; Lebanon advocates push for sanctions on fuel smugglers

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.

Please send tips, comments and suggestions to [email protected] And make sure to follow us on Twitter @foreign_lobby and @JulianPecquet for all the latest foreign lobbying news.


New lobbying filings

Mercury Public Affairs has deregistered Benjamin Westlake-Tritton (bio), a vice-president in its London office and former deputy head of the British government’s counter disinformation and misinformation team, as a foreign agent. Westlake-Tritton had been registered to lobby for the government of Haiti, Libya’s Government of National Unity and the Turkey-US Business Council (TAIK).

Americas

Canada: The US affiliate of Canadian public utility Hydro-Quebec has extended its contract with Washington public relations firm Forbes Tate Partners from August 20 through November to provide “digital advertising, voter outreach, and related research services” in Maine ahead of a Nov. 2 referendum on a proposed $1 billion cross-border power line opposed by environmental groups. The contract extension is for up to $2.38 million.

Forbes Tate is expected to provide “research; interviews; conduct surveys, polls, and focus groups; analysis of social and earned media; advertising spending tracking; message development; digital and text advertising; preparation of informational materials; public relations counseling; and voter outreach relating to the foreign principal’s interest in the New England Clean Energy Connect transmission line project.” The firm also added former Maine state lawmaker Owen Casas, an independent, as a subcontractor on the account for $2,500 per month.

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El Salvador: A second Salvadoran businessman has hired lobbying help in connection with a sanctions list unveiled by the State Department last month. Former Rep. Albert Wynn (D-Md.) is one of three Greenberg Traurig lobbyists representing ​Jose Enrique Aquiles Rais Lopez, the former head of publicly subsidized waste management firm Integrated Solid Waste Management of El Salvador (MIDES) who has been living as a fugitive in Switzerland since 2017 and is accused in El Salvador of being part of a corruption network with former Attorney General Luis Martinez, who was sentenced to five years in prison in 2018. The lobbying registration was effective Aug. 1. Joining Wynn on the account are Rob Mangas, a former chief of staff to the late Sen. Wendell Ford (D-Ky.), and Alice Kessler, a shareholder in the firm’s Sacramento office.

Rais was one of more than 50 individuals named in a list of “corrupt and undemocratic actors” in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras by the State Department last month. The report was required under the Northern Triangle Enhanced  Engagement Act, which was introduced in 2019 by former Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) when he was chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Rais is accused of having “engaged in significant corruption and undermined democratic processes or institutions by bribing public officials.” Another businessman, Salvadoran flour magnate Adolfo Salume Artinano, hired the Capitol City Group last month to lobby for the removal of sanctions. The US views corruption in Central America as a root cause of migration to the United States.

Guyana: The Cormac Group has terminated its lobbying registration for the government of Guyana as of June 30, according to a new lobbying filing. The South American country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation signed a six-month, $25,000-per-month contract with the firm on Dec. 28 after it successfully represented the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and its victorious candidate Irfaan Ali against then-President David Granger. Cormac disclosed reaching out multiple times in recent months to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), whose Queens district is home to a significant Guyanese-American community. Meeks reportedly met with Guyanese foreign secretary Robert Persaud in June for the naming of Queens’ Little Guyana Avenue.

Registered on the account were Cormac Group partner James Link and consultants Otto Reich and Jose Cardenas. Link is a former aide to then-Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and then-Reps. Dick Cheney (R-Wyo.) and William Dickinson (R-Ala.). Reich notably served as assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs under President George W. Bush and is the founder of Florida-based Otto Reich Associates. Cardenas served as acting assistant administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean at the US Agency for International Development, also under Bush.

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Asia

China: Squire Patton Boggs (SPB) has renewed its lobbying for the Chinese government for another year starting July 11. The contract is for $55,000 per month, the same as previously. The renewal was signed by the firm’s Public Policy Practice Group leader Robert Kapla (bio) and Minister-Counselor Yin Chengwu of the Chinese Office of Congressional and Subnational Affairs. Patton Boggs has represented the Embassy of China in Washington since 2005.

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China: The Hong Kong Trade Development Council has registered Los Angeles director Wong Pui Chi as a foreign agent.

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Europe

Germany: The Representative of German Industry and Trade has registered policy manager Jay Morgan and administrative assistant Silke Roberts-Schumacher as foreign agents. The Washington-based group represents the interests of the Federation of German Industries in the United States.

Italy: Italian superstar tenor Andrea Bocelli has hired white shoe law firm Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer for lobbying help with “tax-related issues.” The UK’s Daily Mail reported this month that Bocelli had been hit with a $8.4 million federal tax lien over unpaid taxes from 2016 and 2017. His lawyers say the allegations are due to a “clerical error” and that he owes the Internal Revenue Service nothing. David Skillman, a former deputy chief of staff and counsel to Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), a senior member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, is registered to lobby on the account. The registration was effective May 27.


Business lobbying

Canada (Ecostrat): A US subsidiary of Canadian biomass company Ecostrat has hired Kilpatrick Townsend Stockton to lobby on “bio-based product manufacturing and development opportunity zones.”

Canada (ElectraMeccanica): The California-based subsidiary of Canadian electric car maker ElectraMeccanica has hired Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld to lobby for tariff relief. The maker of three-wheeled electric cars is building its first US assembly plant in Arizona, in part to avoid US tariffs on its Chinese-made products.

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Netherlands (ASML): The US subsidiary of Dutch semiconductor photolithography systems manufacturer ASML has hired Ogilvy Government Relations to lobby on “issues related to the global chip shortage impact on the semiconductor industry” including the CHIPS Act, the US Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) and trade. The firm has registered five lobbyists on the account:

  • Dean Aguillen, a former senior adviser to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.);
  • Former House Republican Conference chief of staff Dee Buchanan;
  • Chris Gilblin, a former chief of staff to Rep. John Carter (R-Texas);
  • Todd Novascone, a former chief of staff to Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas); and
  • Karissa Willhite, a former deputy chief of staff to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).

The registration was effective July 6. ASML US previously registered an in-house lobbying arm and hired former Joe Biden Senate Judiciary Committee aide Christopher Putala‘s Putala Strategies earlier this year.

South Korea (Coupang): South Korean e-commerce giant Coupang has officially registered an in-house lobbying arm. Coupang’s new head of public affairs, Alex Wong, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian & Pacific Affairs and foreign and legal policy adviser to Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah), is registered to lobby on “advancing economic development goals through Coupang’s expansion in current and new markets; support for small & medium-sized enterprise participation in Coupang’s marketplace; and facilitation of the sales and transport of agricultural products, active apparel, consumables, health products, consumer electronics, automotive accessories, and other goods.”

Caught our eye

Lebanon: The Lebanese Information Center, a Minnesota-based nonprofit, is advocating for the US to impose sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act on Lebanese officials and business people found smuggling fuel to Syria. Already facing the worst financial crisis in its history, Lebanon has seen electricity provision cut down to just two hours a day in much of the country due to fuel shortages.

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