LOBBYING TRACKER

PRESENTED BY

DATAPOINTS

For NCRI/MEK

$511,000

LOBBYING SPEND (2018)

4

LOBBYING/PR FIRMS

6

REGISTERED AGENTS

AL-MONITOR
LOBBYING RANK

#3 (tie)

AF International
(for Iran Transition Council)

Hired: June 2020
Contract: $12,000 (six months)

NEW Contract

The Iran Transition Council, a group of Iranian opposition figures, has hired AF International to lobby. The six-month contract is worth $12,000. Principal Ayal Frank will work on the account. Frank and the firm also work for the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, an Iranian Kurdish armed group (Komala leader Abdullah Mohtadi is a founding member of the Iran Transition Council).

Michael Mukasey
Former Attorney General
(for National Council of Resistance of Iran)

Hired: Sept. 2019
Contract: pro-bono

NEW Supplemental
(Oct. 1, 2019 – March 31, 2020)

Former attorney general Michael Mukasey contacted a State Department official on behalf of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which advocates for regime change. On Oct. 7, Mukasey spoke with Daniel Rhodes, a program analyst at the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, on the phone about a “potential meeting regarding issues related to visas.” The next day, he emailed Rhodes to schedule a meeting. But one week later, on Oct. 16, Mukasey emailed Rhodes about a “meeting cancellation.” The contacts with Rhodes were the only activities reported by Mukasey in the six-month period ending March 31. Mukasey, a George W. Bush administration attorney general who also lobbies for Qatar via law firm Debevoise & Plimpton, paid law firm DLA Piper $6,000 in legal expenses that were reimbursed by the NCRI. Mukasey lobbies for the NCRI pro bono.

Salah Bayaziddi
US Representative
(for Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan)

Hired: Sept. 2018
2018 fees: $7,500

NEW Supplemental
(Oct. 1, 2019 – March 31, 2020)

Salah Bayaziddi, the US representative of the armed Iranian Kurdish Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, met with Reps. Brian Mast, R-Fla. (Oct. 29); John Garamendi, D-Calif. (Oct. 30) and Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. (Dec. 11). Bayaziddi met with representatives of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (Dec. 9), the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (Dec. 11) and the Hudson Institute (Dec. 13). Bayaziddi disclosed $16,000 in office expenses, transportation costs and rent.

AF International
(for Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan)

Hired: Feb. 2019
Contract: $4,000/month

NEW Supplemental
(Sept. 1, 2019 – Feb. 29, 2020)

The Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, an Iranian Kurdish armed opposition group, paid AF International $30,000 in the six-month period ending Feb. 29. The sole lobbyist working on the account, Ayal Frank, met with Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., on Oct. 29; Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif.; and Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., on Dec. 11. Frank also met with representatives from at last five major Washington think tanks, including the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies; conservative Hudson Institute; liberal Center for American Progress; the American Foreign Policy Council; and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Rosemont Associates
(for National Council of Resistance of Iran)

Hired: 2013
2018 fees: $240,000

NEW Q1 domestic lobbying filing

The National Council of Resistance of Iran, which advocates for regime change in Tehran, paid former Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., and his lobbying firm, Rosemont Associates, $55,000 to lobby the State Department. Rosemont reported representing “Iranian refugees now located in Albania before Albanian government officials, UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) staff and US Embassy/State Department representatives on matters relating to the resettlement of these refugees.”

Robert Joseph
(for National Council of Resistance of Iran)

Hired: Jan. 2019
Contract: $15,000/month

NEW Supplemental
(Aug. 1, 2019 – Jan. 31, 2020)
Fees: $85,000
Meetings: US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook, National Security Council senior director for weapons of mass destruction and biodefense Anthony Ruggiero and Tim Morrison, who at the time was the National Security Council’s senior director for Europe and Russia

The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran paid former US special envoy for nuclear nonproliferation Robert Joseph $85,000 in the six months through January. Joseph disclosed meetings with US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook, the National Security Council’s senior director for weapons of mass destruction and biodefense Anthony Ruggiero and Tim Morrison, who at the time was the National Security Council’s senior director for Europe and Russia but has since left the White House after testifying in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.

Cogent Law Group
(for Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan)

Hired: Dec. 2019
Contract: $40,000

NEW Contract

An Iranian Kurdish armed group has hired a new lobbyist to reach out to the Donald Trump administration. The Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan hired Washington law firm the Cogent Law Group in December to “promote and develop cooperative relations with the US government,” according to newly disclosed lobbying filings. The firm was paid $40,000 up front to organize a “single high-level meeting with a senior official of the executive branch of the United States Government” and a “single media interview in the United States.” Read the whole story here.

National Council of Resistance of Iran - US Representative Office
(in-house)

Hired: 2001
2018 expenditures: $271,000

NEW Supplemental
(June 1, 2019 – Nov. 30, 2019)
Expenditures: $121,000

The main group pushing for regime change in Iran lobbied the head of the hawkish United Against Nuclear Iran on the sidelines of his organization’s annual event in New York last fall, new lobbying filings show. Read more here.

Cogent Strategies
(for the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans)

Hired: Feb. 2019

NEW Q3 domestic lobbying filing

The Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans paid Cogent Strategies $20,000 lobbying Congress on “general policy issues affecting the Iranian-American community including travel, human rights, freedom of expression, and freedom of speech.”

Iran opposition buoyed by Trump’s 'maximum pressure' campaign

Editor

Julian Pecquet

@JPecquet_ALM

jpecquet@al-monitor.com
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Julian Pecquet is the Editor of Special Projects for Al-Monitor, where he supervises the award-winning Lobbying Tracker as well as managing long-form stories. Before that he covered the US Congress for Al-Monitor. Prior to joining Al-Monitor, Pecquet led global affairs coverage for the political newspaper The Hill.

Posted: September 11, 2019

Iran’s main exiled opposition group is seeing large swaths of its decades-old agenda become reality under US President Donald Trump, even as its ultimate dream of regime change in Tehran remains out of reach.

The Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an umbrella group dominated by the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), has consistently applauded Trump’s so-called maximum pressure campaign against Tehran and the imposition of sanctions. Long dismissed as a fringe cult by critics — and as terrorists by the Iranian regime (as well as the United States until 2012) — the MEK is now being embraced by the Trump administration.

This January, the NCRI hired its first new lobbyist in six years when it brought on Robert Joseph, a former undersecretary of state for arms control and international security under President George W. Bush. The investment has paid off, with Joseph getting paid $90,000 in the first half of this year while scoring meetings with key actors including US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood and National Security Council hawk Richard Goldberg.

The NCRI also has ties to national security adviser John Bolton, spending $40,000 so he could attend its annual summit near Paris in 2017. And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., a close Trump ally, considered registering as a foreign agent for the group last year after making several paid appearances sponsored by the group (Gingrich has not registered to date).

Meanwhile, Al-Monitor first reported that the State Department changed its talking points ahead of the US anti-Iran summit in Warsaw in February to stop precluding the MEK as a viable alternative to the Iranian theocracy.

Despite the string of victories, the NCRI has suffered a few setbacks as well.

Last year, the group was accused of running a Twitter troll farm from Albania to artificially inflate support for a US hard line against Tehran. (The last remaining MEK fighters were relocated from Iraq to the Balkan nation in 2016.)

This year, the NCRI hosted its annual rally at its new Ashraf 3 compound in the Albania capital of Tirana. The event drew the usual crowd of (well-compensated) former US and international officials but no current members of the Trump administration and only one lawmaker, freshman Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Texas.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s own hawkish rhetoric on Iran has caused the president to periodically soften his stance to reassure his war-skeptic base. “We are not looking for regime change,” Trump insisted in July. “We are not looking for that at all.”

The president has also said that he has made a “lot of progress” in reaching a new nuclear deal with Tehran after he tore up the old one. Al-Monitor reported in July that Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., had met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as an informal US emissary.

Other groups have also jumped on the anti-regime bandwagon, albeit far less visibly than the NCRI.

Last September, the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, an exiled armed group with communist origins, opened an office in Washington to build connections with Congress and the Trump administration. The group hired Ayal Frank, a former longtime lobbyist for the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq, and his AF International firm in February for $4,500 a month.

On the other side of the debate, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) has relinquished its position as the main advocate for a less hawkish approach to Iran amid rising concerns from the Democratic Party and the departure of founder Trita Parsi. Powerful liberal groups, including J Street, have made diplomacy with Iran a priority in their outreach to the candidates running for president in 2020.

HIGHLIGHTS

Main lobby firm:
Rosemont Associates

 

 

$511,000

Total lobbying and PR spending for 2018

 

 

WINS
  • Trump intensifies ‘maximum pressure’ campaign
  • State Department stops saying MEK unacceptable alternative for Iran
  • New lobbyist scores meetings with key officials
LOSSES
  • Trump rules out ‘regime change’ policy
  • MEK accused of running Twitter troll farm
  • US officials skip NCRI rally