- Libya’s Bashagha turns to BGR for election lobbying
- Ballard lobbies for release of accused Jordanian coup plotter
- Human rights lawyer Jared Genser lobbies for detained Nicaragua opposition leaders
- German business group in Washington registers to lobby for closer economic ties
- Akin Gump’s Rep. Ros-Lehtinen lobbies for Palau
- GOP firm ends PR work for Chinese co. accused of stealing US tech secrets
- Angolan president to tout conservation efforts in Washington visit this month
- Uzbekistan deputy PM lobbies for VP Harris meeting to discuss Afghanistan
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
Angola: Angolan President Joao Lourenco is set to visit Washington on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly later this month and is seeking meetings with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), according to a new lobbying filing. Lourenco hopes to discuss efforts to “improve bilateral relations with the US” and “expanding opportunities for American businesses to invest and operate in Angola,” according to an email sent to McCarthy’s office by Squire Patton Boggs (SPB) Principal Thomas Andrews. Andrews (bio) is a former aide to McCarthy’s predecessors Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and John Boehner (R-Ohio) and congressional liaison under President Donald Trump.
President Lourenco will be in Washington on Sept. 20 to attend the US Congressional International Conservation Leadership Awards Dinner of the International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF), a Washington nonprofit that helps promote US leadership for international conservation worldwide. The Angolan leader is scheduled to address the UN on Sept. 23, according to a provisional list of speakers obtained by Foreign Lobby Report. Late last month, Angolan Minister of Culture, Tourism and Environment Jomo Fortunato met with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Akunna Cook during a visit to Washington, Angolan media reported. The minister also reportedly met with ICCF Group President John Gantt to discuss “rehabilitation and improvement of national parks, with a view to boosting tourism activities in Angola.”
SPB has represented the Angolan government since 2019 and signed a $3.75 million yearlong contract extension in June 2021. Luanda is courting international investors following 2017 elections that saw President Jose Eduardo dos Santos step down after 38 years in power marked by massive corruption in the oil-rich nation
Argentina / Ecuador: Policy specialist Grace Bendik has left Arnold & Porter after two years with the firm. She had been registered to lobby for the governments of Ecuador and Argentina. Meanwhile Managing Director Paul Howard, a former aide to Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), is no longer registered as a foreign agent for the Embassy of Argentina, his only foreign client.
The firm signed a $1.932 million 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. And shortly after President Joe Biden‘s victory in November the firm signed a $900,000 agreement with Ecuador’s Ministry of Production, Foreign Trade, Investments and Fisheries to help negotiate a free trade deal.
Bermuda: Chicago public relations firm Kivvit has registered three more people as foreign agents for the Bermuda Business Development Agency: Director and General Manager Kelly Penton Chacon; Senior Associate Maria Chicuen; and Digital Associate Allison Derman. The firm has worked for the agency since 2009 and recently signed a $16,500-per-month contract extension through March 2022. Along with running social media and digital ad campaigns, the firm is tasked with arranging meetings with “the most important reporters, business conveners, politicians, law partners, and leaders in insurance and financial services” in cities across North America.
Nicaragua: The wives of two detained Nicaraguan opposition leaders have hired international human rights lawyer Jared Genser and his firm Perseus Strategies to lobby on “U.S. political, economic, human rights, humanitarian, and intelligence interests relevant to Nicaragua and the release of political prisoners.” The registrations on behalf of Berta Valle and Victoria Cardenas were both effective July 19. Valle is married to Felix Maradiaga Blandon, a leader of the opposition group Blue and White National Unity and a would-be presidential candidate in the Nov. 7 general election who was arrested by President Daniel Ortega‘s government on June 8. Cardenas’ husband Juan Sebastian Chamorro, another would-be presidential candidate and former director of the opposition Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, was also arrested June 8.
Genser is well-known for representing such figures as Vaclav Havel, Aung San Suu Kyi, Desmond Tutu, Elie Wiesel and Liu Xiabo. Blandon and Chamorro face 15 to 25 years on “fabricated national security offenses,” Genser tweeted this week.
China: Republican PR firm Blueprint Communications terminated its registration on behalf of the Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Company effective Aug. 27 because the Chinese state-owned microchip manufacturer “no longer required communications capabilities,” according to a new lobbying filing. Blueprint registered as a subcontractor to Steptoe & Johnson last summer for $17,500 per month. Blueprint co-founders Chad Kolton and James Morrell, both veterans of the George W. Bush White House, were registered as foreign agents on the account. Steptoe remains registered as a foreign agent for the company along with law firm Brownstein Hyatt and consultant Jim Handy.
Fujian Jinhua attracted outsize media attention as the first company targeted under the “China initiative” that the Justice Department launched in 2018 under President Donald Trump. A federal grand jury charged the state-owned company back in November 2018 of involvement in a conspiracy to steal trade secrets from Micron Technology of Idaho, the only US-based company to manufacture dynamic random-access memory (DRAM). The allegations led the US Commerce Department to cut off Fujian Jinhua from US suppliers.
Indonesia: Ott, Bielitzki & O’Neill repeatedly contacted the US defense attache and the FBI’s legal attache office in Jakarta as well as the National Security Council’s Coordinator for Indo-Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell on behalf if Indonesia’s Defense Ministry this summer, according to a new lobbying filing. The Washington law firm specializing in military procurement signed a $25,000-per-month contract with Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto on June 14. The country is reportedly eyeing a $125 billion spending spree on new weapons over the next three years. Subianto has previously been barred from entering the US because of accusations of human rights violations by the former special forces commander.
Malaysia: The DCI Group has registered partner Ryan Grillo (bio) on its new account with the Malaysian Palm Oil Council. The council hired the Washington lobbying firm earlier this month to provide “public policy counsel … in support of its efforts to improve the labor and human rights policies and practices of Malaysia.” The $25,000-per-month contract runs from Aug. 17 through July 31, 2022.
Palm oil is a major export for Malaysia, which has come under over allegations of forced labor. The Donald Trump administration halted imports from two major Malaysian palm oil producers last year after finding them responsible for forced labor abuses. The council is controlled and funded by Malaysia’s Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities.
Palau: The Pacific island of Palau has hired Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld to lobby ahead of the 30th anniversary review of its 1994 compact of free association with the United States in 2024. The contract, effective Aug. 16, is for $40,000 per month through September and renewable annually after that. The review “presents Palau with a unique and valuable window of opportunity to provide for most U.S. financial assistance and federal programs and services [after 2024] framing important elements of the Palau-U.S. relationship for many years, if not decades, to come,” the contract states.
Former House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) is one of seven registered foreign agents on the account, along with Akin Gump partner Ed Pagano; senior counsel Karen Goldmeier Green; senior advisers Geoff Verhoff, Denise Desiderio and Jose Borjon; and associate Katherine Padgett. Akin Gump also represents the Marshall Islands as it negotiates the renewal of its own compact of free association with the United States in 2023.
South Korea: Arnold & Porter partner Soo-Mi Rhee has ended her registration as a foreign agent for the South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy. The firm has represented the ministry since February 2020 and recently signed a $360,000 contract renewal from Feb. 1 through the end of the year.
Uzbekistan: Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade Sardor Umurzakov is scheduled to visit Washington next week and is seeking a meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris to discuss “the current situation in Central Asia, in particular Afghanistan,” according to a new lobbying filing. Topics of interest include Uzbekistan’s efforts to develop a free trade zone on the Uzbek-Afghan border and human rights reforms in the Central Asian country. The request to Harris Chief of Staff Hartina Flournoy was disclosed by Washington PR firm Xenophon Strategies, which signed a $585,000 contract with the ministry in April 2020 to help drive foreign investment and end the international boycott campaign against cotton exports from Uzbekistan, which has faced accusations of using forced labor.
Germany: A new German business group in Washington has registered with the US Department of Justice to “promote and deepen economic and commercial ties between the United States and Germany.” The Delegation of German Industry and Commerce (DGIC) was incorporated in Delaware at the end of 2020 but just now registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The group is owned by DIHK DEinternational GmbH in Berlin, which works “independently from but closely with Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy,” according to the FARA registration. Directors Thorsten Wilke and Benjamin Leipold and Treasurer and project manager Daniela Berger-Huza are registered as foreign agents for DGIC.
“DGIC’s goal is to advance, facilitate and foster commercial interests of German business and industry in the United States as well as commercial interests of U.S. business and industry in Germany,” the registration states. “DGIC shall serve as a point of contact for German companies interested in the DC metro area and U.S. companies interested in Germany as a business location. It shall offer companies a networking platform on transatlantic business topics and connect the German Chambers of Commerce Abroad (AHKs), the German Chambers of Commerce in Germany (IHKs), trade associations and decision-makers from federal and state governments.” DGIC says it also seeks to promote relations with the executive branch and Congress “in order to promote the benefits of transatlantic cooperation,” with its main contacts being the Department of Commerce and the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR).
Ireland: Ireland’s Industrial Development Agency (IDA Ireland) in New York has registered Vice President of sales and marketing Keith William Newton as a foreign agent.
Jordan: President Donald Trump‘s former Florida lobbyist Brian Ballard has joined the lobbying effort to get Jordan to release accused coup plotter Bassem Awadallah. Ballard Partners has registered effective July 22 as a subcontractor to former Attorney General John Ashcroft‘s law firm, which was hired in early July by Awadallah’s family. Ballard himself is registered to lobby for Awadallah along with firm partners Sylvester Lukis and Gerald John O’Hanlon. Also registered to lobby on Awadallah’s behalf are Ashcroft Law Firm partners Michael Sullivan, a former director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and Kim West, a former trial attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. This marks Ballard’s first foray back into foreign policy-oriented lobbying since the firm terminated its last registrations under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) earlier this year after earning more than $14 million from foreign clients under Trump.
A former finance minister and head of the Royal Hashemite Court who is also a US citizen, Awadallah is accused of conspiring with Prince Hamzah bin Al Hussein to overthrow King Abdullah II, the prince’s half-brother. He was found guilty of sedition and incitement last month and sentenced to 15 years in prison in July. The State Department has expressed its concerns to Amman over “allegations of mistreatment and the denial of family visits,” the AP reported last month.
Libya: Former Libyan interior minister turned presidential hopeful Fathi Bashagha has hired Washington lobbying firm the BGR Group after parting ways with Brownstein Hyatt under mysterious circumstances. “Bashagha is building support for elections in December as an important step in keeping Libya on track for a stable and prosperous future,” the firm told Foreign Lobby Report in an emailed statement. “BGR will help Mr. Bashagha make this case to government officials and the media in the U.S.” Details of the contract remain have yet to be disclosed as the registration has not yet been made public on the US Justice Department’s Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) web site.
“We’re honored to represent Minister Bashagha, a leading advocate of democratic elections in Libya,” BGR founding partner Ed Rogers said in an emailed statement. “Minister Bashagha is committed to a better future for Libya and we are eager to help secure U.S. support for the upcoming elections.”
The BGR hire comes after Bashagha signed a $50,000-a-month contract with Brownstein Hyatt in late June that was almost immediately terminated, with neither side offering an explanation. Former House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.), who chairs Brownstein’s international practice, had been registered to lobby for Bashagha along with veteran US diplomat Samantha Carl-Yoder and policy director Douglas Maguire.
The Africa Report reported over the weekend that the US State Department has proposed replacing elections scheduled for this December with a staggered vote that would end in September 2022 amid opposition to the current timeline from the transitional government in Tripoli. “The US goal is a sovereign, stable, unified, and secure Libya with no foreign interference, and a democratically elected government that supports human rights and development, and that is capable of combating terrorism within its borders,” a State Department official told Foreign Lobby Report when asked for comment. “The target election date of December 24 is rapidly approaching. To avoid losing the progress made since the ceasefire, there is an urgent need for Libyan leaders to come up with creative compromises on an electoral framework.”
United Arab Emirates: New York CEO advisory firm Teneo Strategy has registered senior vice president Keith Parker and managing director Kyle Stelma as foreign agents for Abu Dhabi’s Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation. Teneo signed a $250,000-per-month contract in June 2020 to represent the foundation led by Emirati Princess Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan through the end of 2021. The firm has since disclosed additional work for the foundation regarding this fall’s Expo 2020 in Dubai and for the 50th anniversary of the Gulf kingdoms’ union in December 1971.