LOBBYING TRACKER

PRESENTED BY

Levick logo

DATAPOINTS

For AIPAC / AIEF

$4 Million

LOBBYING SPEND (2018)

2

LOBBYING/PR FIRMS

8

REGISTERED AGENTS

AL-MONITOR
LOBBYING RANK

#1

Mercury Public Affairs
(for Q Cyber Technologies)

Hired: Dec. 2019
Contract: $1.4 million/year

NEW Registered foreign agents
Daniel Bank
Toby Denselow
George Tucker

Mercury Public Affairs is tapping former British officials to help lobby for Q Cyber Technologies and its better known subsidiary the NSO Group as the Israeli spyware company faces a global backlash over accusations that it helped authoritarian regimes spy on dissidents. In addition to five US citizens retained in January to help fight against lawsuits in the United States, Mercury has now added three people in its London office to the account. Read more here.

In addition, Mercury partner Daniel Bank, a former producer for “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News, registered to lobby on the firm’s account with Q Cyber Technologies in January, according to newly disclosed Justice Department filings. Another former Fox News producer, Ian McCaleb, also works on the account.

Trip: Jan. 21, 2020 to Jan. 24, 2020
6 lawmakers

Trip type: Congressional delegation
Destination: Israel
Lawmakers: Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla.; Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.; Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill.; Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.; Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.; House Foreign Affairs Middle East panel Chairman Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and ranking member Joe Wilson, R-S.C.; Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.; and Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., visited Israel on a congressional delegation from Jan. 21 to 24.

Trip: Feb. 13, 2020 to Feb. 20, 2020
2 lawmakers; $34,000

Trip type: Privately sponsored
Sponsor: 12Tribe Films Foundation
Destination: Israel
Lawmakers: Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio

A New York-based nonprofit online video producer paid for two US lawmakers to travel to Israel last month on a tour that focused largely on hammering the pro-Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. The trip was organized by Avi Abelow and his 12Tribe Films Foundation, maker of videos such as “Jerusalem: Holiest City to Whom?” and “The Myth of Israeli Apartheid.”
 
12Tribe Films Foundation describes itself as “online warriors for truth about Israel and the Jewish people” on its Facebook page. The nonprofit paid more than $34,000 to take Reps. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Mike Johnson, R-La., and their spouses, according to new congressional travel disclosures. The BDS movement was a main focus of the weeklong trip, with five agenda items dedicated to the boycott campaign.
 
Jordan and Johnson notably had lunch with Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan, who is responsible for fighting BDS, at the Psagot Winery in the West Bank settlement of the same name. Last year, the winery hired Covington & Burling to make the case to US policymakers that EU labeling rules violate World Trade Organization regulations. They also visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the city of Hebron and a settlement in the Israel-occupied Golan Heights named after President Donald Trump.
 
“Thank you Ethics committee, for working with us to achieve this incredibly creative and important, not to mention unique, itinerary — the only way to truly get to know a country, its people and heritage,” the Yes! Israel Project, which is run by the 12Tribe Films Foundation, wrote in its newsletter. The foundation also promoted an “exclusive interview” with the congressmen in which they railed against BDS and the left.

Trip: Feb. 15, 2020 to Feb. 21, 2020
2 staffers; $7,600

Trip type: Privately sponsored
Sponsor: Rebuilding Alliance and the Rotary Club Woodside Portola Valley Foundation
Destination: Israel

Rebuilding Alliance, a group “dedicated to advancing equal rights for the Palestinian people,” and the Rotary Club Woodside Portola Valley Foundation spent $7,600 on a trip to Israel and the West Bank by two House staffers from Feb. 15 to 21. The group reached out to hundreds of Capitol Hill aides regarding the trip.

Covington & Burling
(for Psagot Winery)

Hired: Sept. 2019

NEW Q1 domestic lobbying termination

An Israeli winery linked to the biggest donors to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stopped lobbying the Donald Trump administration in its legal and political fight against the European Union. Covington and Burling terminated its contract with the Psagot Winery in the West Bank settlement of the same name on Feb. 6, after paying the firm a total of $170,000. The firm was hired in September to help fight pending EU labeling regulations for products from Israeli settlements. Lobbyists on the account included former House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman, D-Calif., and former US ambassador to the EU Stuart Eizenstat. The winery is majority-owned by the Falic family of Florida, owners of a duty-free empire who have close ties to Trump and other top Republicans. Read our original story on the contract here.

American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)
(in-house)

Registered: 2003
2018 fees: $3.5 million

NEW Related news

The pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), has made extending the UN arms embargo on Iran one of its key lobbying asks, according to the lobbying agenda for its three-day conference, which starts Sunday in Washington. The embargo is set to expire in October under the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal. The push comes as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Congress today that Russia and China are already lining up to start selling weapons to Iran. The Donald Trump administration’s point-man on Iran, Brian Hook, said at a breakfast meeting convened by Al-Monitor that it would amount to “diplomatic malpractice to let this arms embargo expire.”
 
Thousands of AIPAC members will descend on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. AIPAC wants them to ask lawmakers to cosponsor a bipartisan Senate resolution from Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Penn., and Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., supporting efforts to extend the ban and to sign a House letter to Pompeo supporting such a move from House Foreign Affairs Committee leaders Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and Mike McCaul, R-Texas. Other lobbying priorities include $3.8 billion in funding for US security assistance and cooperative missile defense funding for fiscal year 2021 and signing on to letters to Pompeo encouraging the administration to defend Israel against efforts to open a war crimes case at the International Criminal Court.

Anti-Defamation League
(in-house)

2018 fees: $155,000

NEW Q4 domestic lobbying filing

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) disclosed that it formally lobbied Congress for the first time to recognize the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide during the fourth quarter of 2019, after publicly endorsing the effort last year (the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved the measure in October and December). The ADL also lobbied on a resolution affirming the cooperation between US nongovernmental organizations and the Israeli military to provide aid to Syrian refugees, and another calling for the repeal of blasphemy, heresy and apostasy laws. The group spent $50,000 on in-house lobbying in the fourth quarter, the same as in Q3. In addition, Erika Moritsugu has stopped working as an in-house lobbyist for the ADL, leaving only three lobbyists on the account.

Media Planning International Corporation
(for Israel Ministry of Tourism)

Hired: Aug. 2014
2018 fees: $18.3 million (spent $16.4 million)

NEW Supplemental
(July 1, 2019 – Dec. 31, 2019)
Fees: $0

NEW Registered foreign agents
Cristina De Jesus Cunillera
Frederick Harvie
Idalma Llanos
Allegra Reich
Mayerly Sepulveda

NEW Terminated foreign agents
Diana Amador
Sara Gonzalez

Media Planning International has seen some turnover in its six-year-old account with Israel’s Tourism Ministry over the past 18 months, according to newly disclosed filings. Cristina De Jesus Cunillera, Frederick Harvie, Idalma Llanos, Allegra Reich and Mayerly Sepulveda have all joined the account, while Diana Amador and Sara Gonzalez have stopped working on the account. The company reported no fees on the account in the second half of 2019, saying the ministry “has not yet remitted payment for services rendered.” Media Planning reported “media organization” contacts with Skyscanner, Jun Group, Live Nation and Project X.

J Street
(in-house)

Registered: 2008
2018 fees: $400,000

NEW Related news

Liberal advocacy group J Street over the weekend asked the Democratic Majority for Israel to take down ads questioning Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ ability to defeat Donald Trump in the general election. Although the ads make no mention of Israel, the centrist Democratic Majority for Israel has questioned Sanders’ desire to condition military aid to Israel as well as his endorsement by progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Arab-American activist Linda Sarsour.

Sonoran Policy Group
(for Bebo Kobo)

Hired: Jan. 2020
Contract: $50,000

Israeli property developer Bebo Kobo hired Sonoran Policy Group effective Jan. 17. Sonoran is set to be paid $50,000 for six months to “facilitate meetings and interactions with US administration officials.” Christian Bourge and Robert Stryk are registered to work on the account. The firm previously represented Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry and Bahrain’s Embassy in Washington.

  • 2018 total: 40 trips; $443,000
    In-house lobbying
    • Registered: 2003  
    • Latest Filing  
    • Registered agents

      • Jeffrey Colman
      • Marvin Feuer
      • Michael Fleischman
      • David Gillette
      • Enia Krivine
      • Ester Kurz
      • Samuel Peyton
      • Deborah Saxon
    • 2018 fees: $3.5 million
    In-house lobbying
    • 2018 fees: $155,000
    Monument Advocacy
    • Hired: 2019  
    • Latest Filing  
    • Registered agents

      • Kimberly Ellis
      • Anderson Heiman
      • Joseph Hoefer
      • Stacey Hutchinson
      • Andrew Howell
      • Ashley Hoy
      • Kate Mills
      • John Mulligan
      • C. Stewart Verdery Jr.
    In-house lobbying
    • Registered: 2008  
    • Latest Filing  
    • Registered agents

      • Jackie Blank
      • Kyle Fradkin
      • Ashley Freiberger
      • Hannah Morris
      • Debra Shushan
      • Dylan Williams
    • 2018 fees: $400,000
    In-house lobbying
    • 2018 fees: $200,000
    The Kar-Mar Company (CBRNE Response Solutions)
    terminated August 2, 2019
    The Russell Group
    • Hired: 2018  
    • Latest Filing  
    • Registered agents

      • Randy Russell
        President
      • Samantha Buchalter
      • Andrew Harker
      • Tyson Redpath
      • Jessica Schulken
      • Karla Thieman
    • 2018 fees: $180,000
    K&L Gates
    • Hired: 2018  
    • Latest Filing  
    • Registered agents

      • Mary Baker
      • Dan Crowley
        Partner
      • Barton Gordon
        Former Congressman
      • Slade Gorton
        Former senator
      • Roderick Hall
      • Scott Nelson
      • Dennis Potter
      • Daniel Ritter
        Partner
      • W. Dennis Stephens
      • Steven Valentine
        Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General
      • James Walsh
        Former congressman
    McHugh LeMay Associates
    terminated December 31, 2019
    Republic Consulting
    terminated April 1, 2019
    • Hired: 2018  
    • No currently registered agents

    ML Strategies
    • Hired: 2019  
    • Registered agents

      • Frank Guinta
        Former congressman, R-N.H.
      • Alex Hecht
      • Aaron Josephson

Trump’s gifts to Israel come at cost

Editor

Julian Pecquet

@JPecquet_ALM

jpecquet@al-monitor.com
bookmark

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

The Israeli government got everything it wanted and more from President Donald Trump in 2019.

The bill may come due in 2020.

After delighting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his own Christian base with his Jerusalem move in 2017, Trump doubled down this year. He recognized Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights in March, while turning the screws on Iran and punishing the Palestinians for refusing to participate in his Middle East peace plan.

“Over the years, Israel has been blessed to have many friends who’ve sat in the Oval Office,” Netanyahu told Trump at the White House signing of the Golan Heights proclamation. “But Israel has never had a better friend than you.”

The cozy relationship between the two leaders has delighted right-wing pro-Israel groups, some of which actively advocate for American Jews to break with the Democratic Party as it wrestles with the rise of pro-Palestinian voices in its ranks. Jewish voters remain strongly opposed to Trump (only 26% have a favorable view, according to a June poll of 1,006 adult American Jews from the American Jewish Committee), but are slightly more willing to give him credit for improving US-Israel relations (36% agree versus 59% who disagree).

“For those who care about Israel, the position of many elected Democrats has become anti-Israel,” the Republican Jewish Coalition wrote in a series of tweets defending Trump’s Aug. 20 comments calling American Jews who vote for Democrats “disloyal.”

The liberal J Street group has responded in kind, raising money for its 2020 presidential campaign fund with stickers that read “Disloyal to tyrants, to bigots, to Trump.”

But the increasingly naked partisanship is causing an existential crisis for traditional pro-Israel advocacy groups — and growing concerns within Netanyahu’s government itself.

"We must not intervene in the political disagreements in the United States,” Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told Reshet Bet Radio when asked about Trump's statement. “We keep good relations with both the Democrats and Republicans, and we must continue to do so.”

That’s long been the mantra of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The largest US pro-Israel issue advocacy organization ($3.5 million in lobbying spending in 2018) owes its unrivaled reputation for success to its deep connections with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle bolstered by periodic trips to Israel conducted by its sister organization, the American Israel Education Foundation ($443,000 in 2018 for 40 trips by lawmakers and staff). When Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., tried to organize an alternative trip to the occupied West Bank this year, AIPAC criticized Netanyahu’s government for denying them access, tweeting that “every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand.”

With US taxpayers shelling out $3.8 billion in annual military aid to Israel — a fifth of the country’s defense budget — even Democrats critical of the two Muslim congresswomen’s stance in favor of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement have rallied to their defense. Their treatment has also prompted 2020 candidate Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to renew his call to condition aid to Israel.

The deepening partisan rift has forced AIPAC and others to carefully calibrate their lobbying, while cutting into their success rate. On the Golan Heights issue, the group has defended Trump’s decision but tellingly declined to lobby for Republican-only House and Senate bills that would codify it into law. AIPAC has also struggled to pass one of its top priorities, legislation bolstering state-level anti-BDS laws, which remains stuck in the Democrat-controlled House amid free-speech concerns.

HIGHLIGHTS

Main lobby:
AIPAC

 

 

$4 million

Total lobbying spending by AIPAC/AIEF for 2018

 

 

WINS
  • Pompeo says settlements not illegal under international law
  • Trump designates Jewish students a protected class
  • US keeps up ‘maximum pressure’ on Iran
LOSSES
  • Trump exacerbates partisanship over Israel
  • House reaffirms support for two-state solution
  • 2020 candidates seek to condition US military aid

  • Trip: June 6, 2018 to June 14, 2018
    1 staffer; $6,000
  • Trip: Aug. 2, 2019 to Aug. 11, 2019
    11 staffers; $73,000
  • Trip: April 27, 2018 to May 5, 2018
    7 staffers; $26,000
  • Trip: Feb. 15, 2020 to Feb. 21, 2020
    2 staffers; $7,600
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