Latest filings

Cambodia taps Qorvis for PR blitz; ex-Rep. Livingston lobbies for Sikh separatists; Turkey renews F-35 lobbying for $1.5 million

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 (FARA)

Africa

Ethiopia: Mercury Public Affairs has registered London-based director Alexander DJ Walker as a foreign agent for the government of Ethiopia, his first registration under FARA, the Foreign Agents Registration Act (a different Alexander Walker handles media relations for the governments of Libya, Haiti and Zimbabwe). Walker will provide “government relations and media relations consulting and management services.” Washington-based Mercury registered earlier this month to lobby for Ethiopia as a subcontractor to its London-based affiliate Mercury International UK.

Mercury also lobbies for the American Ethiopia Public Affairs Committee (AEPAC), a recently formed US domestic advocacy group that supports Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed‘s offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and its allies. Holland & Knight is also lobbying for the Ethiopian government, while several US ethnic diaspora groups are advocating for a tougher US stance against Addis Ababa.

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Lesotho: A southern African business group has hired longtime Africa trade lobbyist Paul Ryberg to help arrange meetings with US officials and business leaders for a public-private delegation to Washington next week. The Lesotho Textile Exporters Association (LTEA) has signed a $10,000 contract with Ryberg’s single-member Washington law firm Ryberg and Smith to assist in arranging and helping prepare for meetings for a Sept. 29-Oct. 1 delegation that is expected to include the association’s president as well as Foreign Minister Matsepo Ramakoae and Trade Minister Thabiso Paul Molapo. They are expected to discuss “bilateral trade issues, including but not limited to matters concerning the future of the African Growth and Opportunity Act.”

Lesotho is a major beneficiary of AGOA, the 2000 law that provides eligible sub-Saharan African countries with duty-free access to the US market for thousands of products. Ryberg previously lobbied for the LTEA regarding AGOA and other matters from 2010 until March of this year. He is also the president of the African Coalition for Trade, which represents business interests in several African countries including Lesotho regarding AGOA and other aspects of trade with the United States.

Mali: New York nonprofit advisory firm Independent Diplomat has renewed its contract to represent Mali’s former Tuareg rebels, the Coordination of the Movements of the Azawad (CMA), for another 12 months through March 2022, according to a newly disclosed lobbying filing. The contract is for 5,000 ($5,600) per month, the same as previously. The firm has represented the Tuaregs since 2017 for assistance with implementation of the Mali Peace Agreement they signed with the government in Bamako in 2015 to end their insurgency in northern Mali in exchange for more autonomy. Independent Diplomat is expected to “seek the views of the US Government by meeting officials and desk officers in the State Department, including at the US Mission to the UN, in order to assist the CMA in its diplomatic efforts.”

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Americas

Canada: Washington PR firm Forbes Tate Partners has hired Nick Schaper, the CEO of Engage LLC and a former director of digital media for then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), along with former Jeb Bush presidential adviser Patrick Hynes of Hynes Communications as subcontractors for Canadian public utility Hydro-Quebec. Hydro-Quebec’s US affiliate recently extended its contract with Forbes Tate from August 20 through November for the provision of “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.

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Panama: The UN Development Program has extended its contract with Chicago PR giant Edelman to raise Panama’s profile through the end of the year, for an extra $225,000. The UNDP hired Edelman for one year in October 2020 for $1.275 million, bringing the total to just over $1.5 million. Edelman is tasked with creating a strategic communications plan aimed at improving the country’s reputation internationally in cooperation with the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The contract notably calls for the identification of international experts who can highlight Panama’s efforts to fight money laundering and support the country’s removal from international blacklists.

Asia

Cambodia: The Embassy of Cambodia in Washington has hired Qorvis Communications to provide “strategic communications and media relations services in support of increasing public awareness along with travel and tourism for the Kingdom of Cambodia.” The open-ended contract is for $69,300 per month and was effective Sept. 15. Brownstein Hyatt and PacRim Bridges are also registered as foreign agents of the Cambodian government.

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India: Former Rep. Robert Livingston (R-La.) has renewed his lobbying for Sikhs for Justice, a New York-based nonprofit banned in India because of its support for Punjab’s secession. The Livingston Group is expected to lobby on “issues related to the intimidation and harassment of US citizens of Sikh ethnicity by individuals and entities outside of the United States for expressing their personal and political views.” Livingston’s former chief of staff J. Allen Martin and the firm’s international practice director Cathryn Kingsbury are also registered to lobby on the account.

The Livingston Group was briefly registered to lobby for the group last year. Its founder Gurpatwant Singh Pannun told Foreign Lobby Report in June that it had put its lobbying on hiatus as it pursues a non-binding referendum on independence in Punjab and around the world.

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Europe

Ukraine: The Ukrainian energy lobby has picked up a former US ambassador as Kyiv deals with the fallout from President Joe Biden‘s decision not to block Russia’s gas pipeline to Germany. Eric Schultz, a former US ambassador to Zambia who also served as deputy US Ambassador to Ukraine, has registered as a subcontractor to Washington law firm Arent Fox, which signed a $1.26 million contract with the Ukrainian Federation of Employers of the Oil and Gas Industry in July. The firm is notably tasked with lobbying Congress and the executive branch regarding “priorities for developing Ukraine’s energy resources and how those priorities support U.S. security goals.”

Schultz will provide “strategic advice regarding corporate governance pertaining specifically to state-owned enterprises.” He is also listed as a senior policy advisor in the Washington office of Ukrainian law firm Asters. Arent Fox joins New York PR firm Karv Communications and Washington lobbying shop Yorktown Solutions in representing the Ukrainian energy sector.

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Middle East

Bahrain: The BGR Group is lobbying members of Congress not to sign on to a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken circulating in the Senate critical of Bahrain’s human rights record. “This is an ill-advised and ill-timed letter, damaging to a critical defense partner and the host of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet,” BGR principal Mark Tavlarides wrote in a Sept. 17 email to Senate staffers disclosed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). “Since 1999, Bahrain has embarked on a constitutional process of wide-ranging reforms that led to the establishment of an elected Parliament, the promotion of human rights, and the advancement of women’s rights.” Tavlarides notably highlights Bahrain’s help with evacuations from Afghanistan and the recent dispatch of its first ambassador to Israel, calling the congressional criticism “tone-deaf.”

The letter obtained by Foreign Lobby Report (you can read it here) is spearheaded by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), both long-time critics of Bahrain. It urges the Joe Biden administration to consider sanctions against Bahrain unless it addresses “systemic human rights against its own citizens” and calls for the release of human rights activist Naji Fateel and opposition leader Hasan Mushaima. In March Amnesty International and other human rights groups sent a joint letter to Blinken denouncing “the alarming deterioration of the human rights situation in Bahrain and the central role played by the Trump administration in encouraging a resurgence of authoritarianism and escalating crackdown on human rights in the country.”

Iraq (KRG): BGR Government Affairs has registered partner Mark Tavlarides (bio), a veteran of the Bill Clinton National Security Council and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, as a foreign agent for the Kurdistan Regional Government. BGR has lobbied for the KRG since 2007. Tavlarides’ activities “may include relevant outreach to US government officials, non-government organizations, members of the media and other individuals within the US.”

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Turkey: Former House Appropriations Committee staffer Mark William Murray has joined Turkey’s lobbying team as Ankara looks to rebuild a Washington influence presence decimated by a slew of defections. A former lobbyist for Cornerstone Government Affairs who started his own firm, MWMurray Consulting, in 2019, Murray has signed on as a subcontractor to longtime Turkey lobbyist Lydia Borland. The $35,000 contract runs from Sept. 15 through the end of the year. Murray is expected to advise on US political developments and “seek meetings as assigned with Members and Staff of the US Congress.” This is his first registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

Borland signed a six-month, $545,000 contract with the Turkish embassy in Washington at the end of June. She had previously represented the Turkish embassy as a subcontractor to Capitol Counsel and Greenberg Traurig but those engagements have recently been terminated amid pressure from the Armenian diaspora over Turkey’s support for Azerbaijan in last year’s conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. The embassy this year also hired Patrick Garvey, a former longtime aide to the late Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.).

Two other firms are also registered as foreign agents for Ankara: The embassy’s longtime Washington law firm Saltzman & Evinch, which the Department of Justice forced to register last year, citing its coordination with lobbying firms; and Amsterdam & Partners, whose focus is on shutting down US charter schools linked to exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames for the failed coup in 2016. Meanwhile Gulen’s supporters have also been stepping up their lobbying to take full advantage of Washington’s exasperation with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan‘s government.

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Turkey: Turkey’s defense industry has renewed for another year its contract with Washington law firm Arnold & Porter for strategic advice on how to remain in the F-35 jet fighter program. The Donald Trump administration formally expelled Turkey from the multi-national program in 2019 over its purchase of Russia’s S-400 air-defense system. The $1.5 million lobbying contract was effective Aug. 15 and works out to $125,000 per month, the same rate as the initial six-month contract signed in February. The contract is with Ankara-based SSTEK Savunma Sanayi Teknolojiler (Defense Industry Technologies), which is wholly owned by the Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB), the government office that manages Turkey’s defense industry.

Arnold & Porter is expected to reach out to US commercial partners and stakeholders within the F-35 program to “sound out and understand their interests with regard to SSB’s continued involvement as a strategic ally and valued partner.” The firm will also monitor export controls and trade sanctions. In December the Donald Trump administration banned US export licenses and authorizations to the SSB under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) over the Russian air-defense purchase. As with the initial contract, Arnold & Porter “does not make any promises or guarantees to the Clients concerning the outcome of the matter for which they have retained the Firm, and nothing in this Agreement shall be construed as such a promise or guarantee.”

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Source: Turkish Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB) – 2018
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Caught our eye

Israel/Palestine: Liberal advocacy group J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami joins Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.) tomorrow for a press conference unveiling his “Two-State Solution Act” that notably calls out Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Politico interviewed Levin about his bill in today’s National Security Daily newsletter.

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