LOBBYING TRACKER

PRESENTED BY

DATAPOINTS

$536,000

LOBBYING SPEND (2018)

3

LOBBYING/PR FIRMS

6

REGISTERED AGENTS

AL-MONITOR
LOBBYING RANK

#18 (tie)

AF International
(for Abbas Hamza Abbas Ako)

Hired: Nov. 2019

NEW Q1 domestic lobbying filing

Abbas Hamza Abbas Ako, a businessman based in Iraqi Kurdistan, paid AF International less than $5,000 in the first quarter to lobby Congress and the State Department on “US-Iraq relations.”

The Livingston Group
(for Iraq)

Hired: Dec. 2017
2018 fees: $280,000

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

Iraq paid The Livingston Group $150,000 in the six-month period ending March 31. Former congressman Robert Livingston, a Republican who represented Louisiana, and lobbyist Cathryn Kingsbury accompanied Iraqi Ambassador to the US Fareed Yasseen to January meetings with Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.; Sen. Angus King, I-Maine; Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.; Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla.; Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.; Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass.; Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.; Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio; and Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C. In February, Livingston and Kingsbury attended a meeting with Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., along with Yasseen and Wathiq Ibrahim, the first secretary of the Iraqi Embassy.

Washington Strategy Group
Mark Al Salih subcontractor
(for Iraq Stability and Security Program)

Hired: Feb. 2019
2018 fees: $117,000

NEW Supplemental (termination)
(March. 1, 2020 – Aug. 31, 2020)

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Joel Rubin’s Washington Strategy Group stopped lobbying for Iraqi Sunni Sheikh Jamal al-Dhari and his Iraq Stability and Security Program on April 29. Rubin was paid $10,000 in the six-month period ending Aug. 31, 2020.

Nineveh Plain Defense Fund
(for Nineveh Plain Protection Units & Assyrian Democratic Movement)

Hired: Feb. 2016

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

The Nineveh Plain Defense Fund, which works to support the armed Nineveh Plain Protection Units and the Iraqi political party that founded the units, the Assyrian Democratic Movement, lobbied the White House, Defense Department and State Department in the six-month period ending Feb. 29. At the time of the meetings, which occurred in September, October and February, the group “sought to explore the possibility for greater US engagement and support for the [Nineveh Plain Protection Units] within its broader security strategy within Iraq” and distributed “confidential briefing materials.”

Iraq Advisory Group
(for Salahuddin Provincial Council)

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

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

The Dubai-based Iraq Advisory Group stopped working for the Salahaddin Provincial Council of Iraq on Oct. 20. The firm reported no payments or lobbying-related work in the six-month period ending Feb. 29. The firm received a total of $45,000 from the council in 2019.

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman
(for Sarmad and Khamis Khanjar / Arab Project)

Hired: May 2019
Contract: $60,000/month

NEW Supplemental
(Aug. 1, 2019 – Jan. 31, 2020)
Meetings: Then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran Andrew Peek, Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C. and Treasury Department officials

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman was paid $301,000 by Iraqi businessman Khamis Khanjar and his son Sarmad Khanjar. The firm met with then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran Andrew Peek, Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., Treasury Department officials and various congressional staffers. The firm reached out to a scheduler for Rep. George Holding, R-N.C., on Dec. 5, one day before the Treasury Department sanctioned Khanjar for “bribing government officials and engaging in corruption at the expense of the Iraqi people.” Pillsbury stopped working for Khanjar the day he was sanctioned.

Thomas Gibson / G.83 LLC
(for Iraq)

Hired: Sept. 2018

NEW Supplemental
(June 1, 2019 – Nov. 30, 2019)
Fees: $108,000

Iraq paid Thomas F. Gibson, a former director of public affairs for President Ronald Reagan, and his Kirkwood/Gibson firm $108,000 in the six months through November to promote investment and business opportunities in the country. During that time he disseminated articles touting Iraq as a business destination on his website. Unusually for a lobbyist dealing with the Justice Department bureaucracy, Gibson calls out the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) unit for “poorly worded” questions and other perceived deficiencies in scribbled notes on multiple filings.

Morris Global Strategies
(for Sarmad and Khamis Khanjar / Arab Project)

Hired: May 2019

 

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman
(for Sarmad and Khamis Khanjar / Arab Project)

Hired: May 2019

 

NEW News development

The US Treasury Department this week sanctioned an Iraqi millionaire for human rights abuses despite a million-dollar lobbying campaign involving a former Donald Trump campaign aide and a four-term ex-congressman from Texas. Khamis Khanjar, a Sunni businessman who has advocated for an autonomous state for the country’s Sunnis, was sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Act for “bribing government officials and for widespread corruption at the expense of the Iraqi people,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. It is not clear what exactly Khanjar was lobbying for in the United States. Read more here.

Holly Strategies
(for Iraq)

Hired: Oct. 2018
2018 fees: $91,000

NEW Supplemental
(May 1, 2019 – Oct. 31, 2019)

Holly Strategies met with Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., and staffers from the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees as well as the State Department’s Office of Iraq Affairs on behalf of Iraq in the six-month period ending Oct. 31. The firm did not report any payments during the period after receiving $84,000 the previous semester.

Greenwich Media Strategies
(for Iraq Private Banks League)

Hired: June 2018
2018 fees: $9,000

NEW Supplemental
(April 1, 2019 – Sept. 30, 2019)

NEW Termination

Fees: $18,500

Greenwich Media Strategies stopped working for the Iraq Private Banks League on Sept. 30. The firm was paid $18,500 by the association of Iraqi banks in the six months through September. Greenwich was hired in June 2018 to provide “strategic communications and media engagement services” to the league “for a project representing the Central Bank of Iraq.”

    Steven Billet
    • Hired: 2017  
    • No currently registered agents

Iraq rebuilds lobbying presence amid US-Iran fight

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

Iraq is overhauling a shattered Washington lobbying network to help shape the US response to the twin threats of Iran and the Islamic State (IS).

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry and its US Embassy have hired three firms in less than two years as Baghdad rebuilds an influence operation decimated by budget woes and the demise of the Podesta Group. In addition to its December 2017 contract with The Livingston Group, Iraq retained Holly Strategies in October 2018; two months later, the embassy hired G83 for the express purpose of stimulating “business and investment in Iraq.”

All told, the Iraqi government spent $536,000 on lobbying last year, a 27% uptick over 2017 but still only about half of what the country was spending in 2014 and 2015 before the fight against IS ravaged its finances. Lobbyists communicated with key State Department and congressional sources, including setting up several meetings for Ambassador Fareed Yasseen on Capitol Hill and a Feb. 6 meeting for visiting Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali al-Hakim with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.

The campaign has helped convince the Donald Trump administration to repeatedly grant sanctions waivers to the energy-dependent country so it can continue buying electricity from neighboring Iran, postponing a showdown with Baghdad during the scorching summer months. Iraq is also trying to mitigate the risk of potentially destabilizing sanctions as the Treasury Department takes aim at Iran-backed Shiite militants even as Congress has declined to take up legislation targeting a group that has members in the Iraqi parliament so far this year.

Even as Iraq worries about a heavy-handed US policy on Iran, Baghdad is equally concerned that the Trump administration will take a hands-off approach to Islamist extremism after declaring IS defeated. The State Department’s decision to shutter its consulate in Basra following a nearby rocket attack blamed on Shiite militias in particular has prompted an urgent appeal by the ambassador for the United States not to pull out.

So far the United States has ruled out a sudden troop withdrawal as in next-door Syria, even as Trump’s comments that he wants to keep US soldiers in Iraq to “watch Iran” created an unnecessary uproar in Baghdad. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is requesting $745 million for its Iraqi train-and-equip fund in the coming fiscal year while the State Department seeks another $115 million in economic aid.

Despite the policy wins, Baghdad’s message runs the risk of being clouded by a host of competing lobbying interests.

The Kurdistan Regional Government for example spent $1.1 million in 2018 to preserve US support for Erbil and its peshmerga forces. Meanwhile, the Nineveh Plain Defense Fund, an Illinois nonprofit, raised $82,000 last year to help equip Christian militias in the northern province.

More problematic for Baghdad are the smattering of Sunni tribal interests lobbying against Iran’s perceived sway over the Iraqi government. In February, the chairman of Iraq’s Sunni-majority Salahuddin Provincial Council, Ahmad al-Krayem, hired the United Arab Emirates-based Iraq Advisory Group on a yearlong, $15,000-per-month contract to raise the alarm over the rise of Iran-backed militias.

And this May, an Iraqi party led by a millionaire businessman who wants to create an autonomous region for the nation’s Sunnis hired former Trump campaign aide Darren Morris and his Tennessee-based Morris Global Strategies for $40,000 per month. The Arab Project Party, led by Khamis Khanjar and his son, Sarmad Khanja, also retained Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman for $60,000 per month.

Finally, in July the Iraq Stability and Security Program (ISSP), which was founded by tribal sheikhs seeking to curb Iranian influence in western Iraq, added Jim Hanson, the president of the right-wing Security Studies Group, to its lobbying roster. The ISSP disclosed just under $120,000 in lobbying payments to its subcontractor, former State Department official Joel Rubin’s Washington Strategy Group, in 2018.

HIGHLIGHTS

Main lobby firm:
The Livingston Group

 

 

$536,000

Total lobbying and PR spending for 2018

 

 

WINS
  • US grants new waiver for electricity purchases from Iran
  • Pentagon seeks $745 million for military support
  • Congress staves off sanctions against parliament members
LOSSES
  • US slams anti-protester violence
  • Tresury Dept sanctions militia leaders
  • Sunni tribes lobby at cross-purposes with Baghdad

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Iraqi millionaire’s lobbying campaign can’t prevent US sanctions

Editor

Aaron Schaffer

aaronjschaffer

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Posted: December 6, 2019

The US Treasury Department today sanctioned an Iraqi millionaire for human rights abuses despite a million-dollar lobbying campaign involving a former Donald Trump campaign aide and a four-term ex-congressman from Texas. Khamis Khanjar, a Sunni businessman who has advocated for an autonomous state for the country’s Sunnis, was sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Act for “bribing government officials and for widespread corruption at the expense of the Iraqi people,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. It is not clear what exactly Khanjar was lobbying for in the United States.

“According to a former senior Iraqi government official, Khanjar’s influence has been mostly due to his willingness and ability to use his wealth to bribe others,” the Treasury Department said in a press release. “Khanjar has reportedly planned to spend millions of dollars in payments to Iraqi political figures in order to secure their support.”

Khanjar and his son, Sarmad Khanjar, signed a $720,000 per year contract with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in May to represent them “in connection with legal and regulatory matters, as well as public policy issues related to US-Iraq relations.” Former Rep. Greg Laughlin, R-Texas, is one of four foreign agents on the contract. In July, Pillsbury lobbyists met with officials including Mike Day, a political desk officer in the State Department’s Iraq office; Luke Murray, national security adviser to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; and officials from the Treasury Department’s Office for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes including Middle East director Jamie Kraut.

That month, Khanjar also signed a year-long contract for $40,000 per month with former Donald Trump campaign aide Darren Morris’ Tennessee-based Morris Global Strategies. Morris was hired to work “advising, counseling and assisting” Khanjar’s political party, the Arab Project, in communications with US government officials.

Neither Pillsbury nor Morris responded to requests for comment.