DATAPOINTS

$66,000

LOBBYING SPEND (2018)

3

LOBBYING/PR FIRMS

6

REGISTERED AGENTS

AL-MONITOR
LOBBYING RANK

#12 (tie)

Hogan Lovells
Law firm
(for Jordan)

Hired: 2016
2018 fees: $1,400

NEW Termination amendment

Hogan Lovells stopped doing work disclosed under FARA for Jordan’s embassy Aug. 31. The sole registered foreign agent was Jessica Ellsworth, a partner who focuses on litigation before appeals courts and the US Supreme Court. Hogan Lovells received $7,000 from Jordan in the six-month period ending Aug. 31. However, the firm continues to do legal work for Amman.

West Wing Writers
(for Jordan’s royal court)

Hired: Aug. 2016
2018 fees: $58,000

NEW Registered agent
Casey Davis-Van Atta

Casey Davis-Van Atta, a former senior writer in the Barack Obama White House’s correspondence office, is working for Jordan’s royal court via West Wing Writers.

White and Case
(for Jordan)

Hired: June 2018
Contract: Billed hourly

NEW Related news

A US federal court this week dismissed a lawsuit against Jordan by the families of three slain US soldiers who accused the kingdom of “aiding and abetting” the Jordanian soldier who shot and killed them at the King Faisal air base in 2016. The court rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that Jordan had waived its sovereign immunity when it signed a status of forces agreement with the United States. White and Case, which represents Jordan in the case, registered as a foreign lobbyist for Jordan along with lawyer Christopher Curran in June 2018 “out of an abundance of caution” but has not disclosed any lobbying-related payments or activities.

 

Jordan’s tiny lobbying operation strains to bridge US partisanship

Editor

Julian Pecquet

@JPecquet_ALM

jpecquet@al-monitor.com
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Julian Pecquet is the Washington Editor for Al-Monitor.

Posted: September 11, 2019

Jordan’s minuscule lobbying footprint is showing its limits as Amman bears the cost of growing US partisanship in foreign affairs.

Unlike other Middle Eastern countries, the kingdom relies almost entirely on King Abdullah II’s personal relationships to make its case in Washington. Jordan spent only $65,750 on lobbying and public relations in 2018, down from $267,000 in 2017 — a mere fraction of what richer countries in the region spend trying to buy influence in Washington.

For years, Jordan has been able to punch above its lobbying weight thanks to bipartisan support for the western-friendly monarch. But Amman’s ability to garner crucial US assistance and have its voice heard on US policymaking in the region has suffered setbacks in recent months amid US political squabbling.

The State Department is once again requesting a hefty $1.275 billion in economic and security aid for Jordan for the coming year, while House and Senate appropriators want an even larger $1.525 billion package. But legislation to allow expedited US defense sales to Jordan for the next three years and consider the creation of an enterprise fund remains bottled up in Congress after the Senate attached it to a bill combating the boycott of Israel that is going nowhere in the Democrat-controlled House.

Likewise, Jordan has gotten caught in the crosshairs as Trump and Congress tussle over US arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates amid increasing concerns over the civilian death toll in Yemen. The Senate voted in June to bar the UAE from transferring 500 US-made laser-guided bombs to Jordan because of bipartisan ire over the administration’s gambit to bypass Congress on Gulf arms sales (Trump subsequently overrode the prohibition). Both the House and Senate versions of annual defense legislation, however, authorize $66 million for an air traffic control tower and a munitions storage area at Jordan’s Muwaffaq Salti Air Base in Azraq, near the border with Syria and Iraq.

Amman is also feeling the pressure as it seeks to balance support for both Trump’s Middle East peace push and for Jordan’s heavy Palestinian population, which feels betrayed by the US effort. In a sign of its dueling priorities, Jordan attended the US conference in Bahrain in June but huddled with Egypt to reaffirm its commitment to a two-state solution ahead of Trump adviser Jared Kushner’s follow-up visit to the region in late July.

While King Abdullah handles most of the high-level lobbying on behalf of Jordan, a handful of firms play a more targeted role. The Jordanian Embassy in Washington retains the Hogan Lovells law firm to help defend Amman-based Arab Bank in a terrorism lawsuit, although the firms have scaled back their involvement since a US appeals court threw out a 2014 jury verdict against the bank in February 2018.

And White and Case, Jordan’s law firm in a terrorism lawsuit brought by the families of three slain American soldiers, also registered as a foreign lobbyist “out of an abundance of caution” in June 2018 but has yet to disclose any lobbying-related payments or activities. A federal court in the District of Columbia last month dismissed the plaintiffs’ argument that Jordan had waived its sovereign immunity when it signed a status of forces agreement with the United States.

In addition, Amman paid public relations firms West Wing Writers and Vivien Ravdin just over $64,000 last year for help with communications. While most influence outfits spread out political contributions to both parties, West Wing Writers — a firm founded by veterans of the Bill Clinton and Barack Obama administrations — skews heavily in favor of Democrats: In 2018, managing partner Vinca LaFleur, a former Clinton speechwriter and one of three foreign agents registered to work on behalf of Queen Rania, made 124 donations totaling more than $14,700 to Democratic candidates, including 2020 presidential hopefuls Kamala Harris ($2,762.50) and Beto O’Rourke ($100), with the top recipient being Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., with six donations worth $4,250.

HIGHLIGHTS

Main lobby:
West Wing Writers

 

 

$66,000

Total lobbying and PR spending for 2018

 

 

WINS
  • Congress doubles down on foreign aid
  • Pentagon champions military assistance
  • US court dismisses terror lawsuit
LOSSES
  • US politics hamper support in Congress
  • Trump peace push raises domestic tensions
  • Trump mulls Muslim Brotherhood terrorism designation

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