Latest filings

Jordan’s king hires DLA Piper to defend against ‘defamation’; Libyan strongman’s US lobbying implodes; Ethiopian investors lobby against AGOA suspension

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 developments

Washington Post White House correspondent Anne Gearan is joining US lobbying firm Finsbury Glover Hering (formerly known as the Glover Park Group) as a partner in its Washington office (see announcement here). It’s not clear if she’ll be lobbying for any sovereign clients. Glover Park has previously represented a slew of controversial clients, from Saudi Arabia to Egypt. FGH for its part is currently registered as a foreign agent for Argentina, Ecuador, the Ivory Coast, Somaliland and the United Arab Emirates as well as a Ukrainian think tank close to President Volodymyr Zelensky‘s political party. Gearan’s announcement notably sparked a response from Jeffrey Smith, whose firm Vanguard Africa represents opposition figures in Africa.

Africa

African Development Bank: US lobbying firm Mercury Public Affairs is helping the African Development Bank (AfDB) prepare for its upcoming Africa Investment Forum Market Days in early December, which aim to catalyze investor interest in the continent in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. The firm is helping organize meetings for the forum’s senior director Chinelo Anohu during her preparatory visit to Washington starting Oct. 11 and has notably reached out to Vice President Kamala Harris‘ chief of staff Hartina “Tina” Flournoy, US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) Chief Operating Officer David Marchik, and the Atlantic Council. Mercury’s relationship with the Ivory Coast-based bank’s leadership goes back several years: The firm notably provided campaign consulting services for Akinwumi Adesina, Nigeria’s candidate to lead the bank, back in 2015 (Adesina won that election and was re-elected to a second term as president last year).

This time Mercury is registered to provide “public affairs, digital communications, and government relations services” as a subcontractor to its London affiliate Mercury International UK, from Sept. 1 through Feb. 28, 2022. Mercury hasn’t disclosed payment details under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Registered on the account are Timothy Sculthorpe (bio), a vice-president in the firm’s London office and a former special adviser to the current UK Conservative Government; London managing director Molly Toomey (bio), New York managing director Eric Bloom (bio); and London-based director Alexander DJ Walker.

Liberia: The Liberian opposition’s US lobbying campaign ahead of the 2023 elections in the West African country appears to be bearing fruit. During a visit to Washington last month to solicit US financial support, Finance and Planning Minister Samuel Tweah took congressional heat over lingering allegations that a container of banknotes headed to the Central Bank of Liberia went missing and that auditors died in unclear circumstances (an independent report commissioned by the US Embassy in Monrovia in 2019 found that no container ever went missing). Tweah blamed lobbying by the opposition Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), an opposition bloc that recently launched a $180,000 lobbying and public relations campaign in Washington, as Foreign Lobby Report first reported Sept. 16. “This is the damage that has been done by the CPP,” Tweah lamented, according to leaked chats obtained by Front Page Africa. “This is why they are paying US $180,000 yearly.”

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Somaliland: The Somaliland Mission to the United States is taking solace from growing calls for the territory’s independence amid lingering political instability in Somalia, retweeting support from Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee panel on Africa. “There is one oasis of stability and that is
Somaliland, which is a de facto independent from Somalia,” Smith told witnesses from the State Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) at a congressional hearing last week. “I would like to hear comments from both State and USAID as to how to better recognize Somaliland in the global community.”

Americas

Argentina/Ecuador: Democratic strategist Cristina Antelo‘s Ferox Strategies has terminated its lobbying for Argentina and Ecuador as of June 1, according to a new lobbying filing covering the six months through August. Arnold & Porter hired Ferox as a subcontractor in January to provide “legislative and public policy services” for Argentina’s Ministry of International Trade and Foreign Investment and Ecuador’s Ministry of Production, Foreign Trade, Investments and Fisheries, which wants a free trade deal with the US. Antelo prepared and disseminated “information about Ecuador’s economy and the environmental efforts to congressional staff and members in advance of general democratic elections” held in February and April but disclosed no political activities for Argentina. The firm was paid $110,000 in total for both engagements. Ferox remains registered as a foreign agent for the Embassy of India.

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Haiti: Haitian businessman turned opposition politician Reginald Boulos has ended his US lobbying campaign after suspending his presidential candidacy amid a surge of violence and political instability following the July assassination of President Jovenel Moise. Former Colorado state lawmaker Joe Miklosi (D-Denver) and Art Estopinan, the former chief of staff for former House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), both terminated their lobbying registrations for Boulos on Sept. 29 after getting paid $5,000 each.

Boulos, a vocal critic of Moise, faced unsubstantiated accusations of playing a role in the murder and threats to his family and business interests in the weeks since Moise’s death. Estopinan told Foreign Lobby Report that Boulos decided to suspend his campaign even before Haiti announced last week that it was postponing the November election until next year, after concluding that “the foundation to have a free and fair election is not present at this time.”

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Asia

India: Washington consulting firm Bell & Lindsay has registered to lobby for Sikhs for Justice, a New York-based group that’s banned in India because of its support for Punjab’s secession. The firm is working as a subcontractor to the Livingston Group of former Rep. Robert Livingston (R-La.), which restarted its lobbying for the group last month after briefly representing them last year. Bell & Lindsay will lobby on “issues related to the intimidation and harassment of US citizens of Sikh ethnicity and entities outside of the United States for expressing their personal and political views.” Registered to lobby on the account are firm president Mark Lindsay (bio), a former assistant to President Bill Clinton‘s for management and administration and longtime consultant for Livingston, and Anthony Fimognari, a federal affairs associate with Livingston.

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Japan: The Japan External Trade Organization has registered Business Development Director Mayu Hobo in Chicago as a foreign agent.

Europe

Germany: DLA Piper is helping lay the groundwork for a possible Washington visit in November or December for Roger Lewentz, the secretary of the Interior for the German state of Rhineland-Pflaz, which hosts thousands of US troops at Ramstein air base and other facilities. The firm distributed information to Congress about the state’s cost-sharing contributions to the US military presence in Germany, which became a bitter issue under President Donald Trump.

Middle East

Jordan: The kingdom of Jordan has hired multinational law firm DLA Piper for help handling the fallout from this weekend’s revelations that King Abdullah II spent more than $100 million buying extravagant homes in Malibu, London and Washington even as his impoverished country remains one of the largest recipients of US aid. The spending spree is detailed in leaked financial documents known as the Pandora Papers obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and published in newspapers around the world this weekend.

DLA Piper will provide “legal advice related to potential defamation and other legal remedies associated with inquiries and/or articles concerning His Majesty King Abdullah II,” according to a new lobbying registration that was effective Sept. 20. Mary Gately (bio), a DLA partner and co-head of the firm’s Washington litigation group, is registered as a foreign agent on the account. She signed the contract alongside Jafar Hassan, the director of the king’s office.

DLA Piper has already begun working on the account, writing in a letter to the Washington Post for a story that ran Sunday that “Any implication that there is something improper about [Abdullah’s] ownership of property through companies in offshore jurisdictions is categorically denied.” The Jordanian Embassy did not respond to a request for comment. The revelations come at a delicate time for the kingdom, which crushed an alleged royal coup this spring by Prince Hamzah bin Al Hussein fueled in part by accusations of corruption against the king, a close US ally who has been in power since 1999.

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Libya: The US lobbying campaign by eastern Libyan strongman and presidential hopeful Khalifa Haftar has imploded before ever taking off the ground. Foreign Lobby Report first reported on Sept. 6 that former Rep. Robert Livingston (R-La.) and political consultant Lanny Davis had improbably teamed up to represent the leader of the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army ahead of elections scheduled for late December. The pair were to be paid $960,000 over six months to help arrange a three-day Washington visit for Haftar, but a new lobbying filing from the Livingston Group shows their registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) contract was terminated Sept. 30, with no explanation given. The termination comes after Haftar failed to issue a public statement endorsing the Libyan election process and respect for human rights, both conditions Livingston and Davis had highlighted in their initial lobbying registration.

Notably, the termination comes two days after the House passed the Libya Stabilization Act, which calls out Russian support for Haftar’s 2019-2020 assault on Tripoli and seeks sanctions on human rights violators. Davis however told Foreign Lobby Report that the termination was unrelated to passage of the bill. Mercury Public Affairs, which lobbies for the UN-backed transitional Government of National Unity in Tripoli, for its part helped disseminate tweets from GNU Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dabaiba and his senior adviser for US affairs Mohammed Ali Abdallah praising the bill.

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Palestine: DLA Piper has registered Harout Samra (bio), an attorney in its Miami office, as a foreign agent on its account for the Palestinian Monetary Authority.


Business lobbying

Australia (Austal): The US subsidiary of Australian ship builder Austal has hired Washington government affairs firm the S-3 Group to lobby on “issues related to shipbuilding in Defense and Homeland Security Appropriations bills.”

Bulgaria: Bulgarian energy construction and maintenance services company Atomenergoremont has hired FGH Holdings (formerly known as the Glover Park Group) to lobby on “partnerships with U.S. entities to advance energy security and transformation.”

Canada (Brainbox AI): The US subsidiary of Canadian artificial intelligence company Brainbox AI has hired Cornerstone Government Affairs to help with “raising awareness on emerging autonomous HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) technology capabilities to obtain recognition in federal energy efficiency policy.” DiNino Associates has registered as a subcontractor to Cornerstone on the account. Both newly disclosed registrations were effective July 5.

Ethiopia: Investors in a Chinese-built industrial park in southern Ethiopia have hired international trade law firm Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg to push back against mounting calls to strip Addis Ababa of US trade preferences amid continuing violence in Tigray and beyond. The firm is lobbying on “preserving AGOA eligibility for apparel from Ethiopia” on behalf of the Hawassa Industrial Park Investors Association, according to a new lobbying filing. Lobbyists on the account include former Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Ill.), a former member of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Nicole Bivens Collinson, a former assistant textile negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

The registration comes as critics of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed are lobbying to suspend Ethiopia’s eligibility under the African Growth and Opportunity Act. US Trade Representative Katherine Tai raised the possibility in a virtual meeting with Ethiopian chief trade negotiator Mamo Mihretu this summer.

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Israel: The US subsidiary of Israeli vehicle chassis manufacturer Jansteel Metal Industries has hired trade law firm Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg for help with a “feasibility study regarding federal funding opportunities for US manufacturers.” Registered on the account are former Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Ill.) and Edward Steiner, a former aide to California Democrats Sam Farr and Loretta Sanchez.

South Korea (Coupang): The US subsidiary of South Korean e-commerce giant Coupang has hired Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld to lobby on “issues related to foreign trade and regulatory issues.” Lobbyists on the account include Brian Pomper, a former chief international trade counsel on the Senate Finance Committee, and Clete Willems, who served as Deputy Assistant to the President for International Economics under Donald Trump. The registration, which was effective Aug. 26, came one month after the company registered an in-house lobbying arm. Coupang’s new head of public affairsAlex 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).


Caught our eye

Hungary: The New York Times has a detailed look at the years-long Washington influence effort by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban‘s government, most of it which isn’t disclosed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

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