LOBBYING TRACKER

PRESENTED BY

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DATAPOINTS

$1.1 Million

LOBBYING SPEND (2018)

6

LOBBYING/PR FIRMS

21

REGISTERED AGENTS

AL-MONITOR
LOBBYING RANK

#7 (tie)

Dentons US
(for KRG)

Hired: 2015
2018 fees: $65,000

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

Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) lobby shop Dentons met with Reps. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., and Paul Cook, R-Calif., in April to discuss “economic, humanitarian and political updates,” according to the firm’s filing for the six months through Sept. 30. In April, May and June, Dentons lobbyists met with six members of the House Armed Services Committee to discuss the National Defense Authorization Act: Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis.; Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo.; Jack Bergman, R-Mich.; Chrissy Houlahan, D-Penn.; Jim Langevin, D-R.I.; and Andy Kim, D-N.J. The firm also met with Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., the top Republican on the House foreign aid spending panel, on May 1, and with Appropriations Committee member Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., on May 15. The KRG paid the firm $236,000 during the period.

PASS
For Ministry of Interior

Hired: 2017 (under Foreign Agents Registration Act)
2018 fees: $477,000 (under Foreign Agents Registration Act)

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

PASS, which works for the KRG’s Interior Ministry, disclosed being paid more than $260,000 in the six-month period ending Sept. 30. In turn, PASS paid the KRG’s joint crisis center $32,500 to “support a humanitarian program for displaced people in cooperation with LDS Charities Inc.”

OPC Strategies
PASS subcontractor

Hired: Oct. 2018
2018 fees: $8,900

NEW Amendment

OPC Strategies has amended a June 2019 filing to disclose that it has not done work for its sole client, PASS, since January 2019. PASS in turn works for the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Interior Ministry.

BGR Government Affairs
(for Kurdistan Regional Government)

Hired: 2004
2018 fees: $240,000

NEW Q2 domestic lobbying filing

BGR Government Affairs was paid $60,000 by the Kurdistan Regional Government in the second quarter of 2019. The firm lobbied Congress, Vice President Mike Pence’s office, the State Department and the National Security Council on bilateral US-KRG relations.

Kurdistan Regional Government - US Liaison Office

Registered: 2006

NEW Amendment
Meetings: Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Penn., Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., Rep. Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., Rep. Ted Budd, R-N.C., Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif.; Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio; Rep. Dean Philipps, D-Minn; and Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., US Ambassador for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback and special adviser for religious minorities in the Near East and South/Central Asia Knox Thames and State Department Iraq desk director Rob Waller

The Kurdistan Regional Government’s US liaison office has amended its latest filing to disclose several meetings between US officials and visiting Kurdish dignitaries between March and June. Halabja Mayor Nuxsha Nasih notably met with State Department Iraq desk director Rob Waller and staffers for Reps. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., during a March visit commemorating the anniversary of the Halabja gas attack. In April, KRG Education Minister Pishtiwan Sadiq and acting Minister of Endowment and Religious Affairs Khalid Talia met with Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Reps. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Penn., Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., Ted Budd, R-N.C. And in June, Alqosh Mayor Lara Yousif Zara met with Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif.; Steve Chabot, R-Ohio; Dean Philipps, D-Minn; and Brian Mast, R-Fla., as well as Waller, US Ambassador for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback and special adviser for religious minorities in the Near East and South/Central Asia Knox Thames during a trip to raise awareness about the status of Christians in Iraq.

Iraqi Kurds battle for US relevance after defeating Islamic State

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

The Iraqi Kurds are spending big to remain relevant in Washington following the back-to-back demise of their deadliest foe and their greatest advocate.

The Kurdistan Regional Government spent just under $1.1 million on five lobbying firms last year to avoid a repeat of the United States’ precipitous 2011 withdrawal following the defeat of the Islamic State. At the same time, Erbil is scrambling to deepen ties on Capitol Hill and the Donald Trump administration after the death last summer of their greatest champion, former Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz.

“Sen. McCain will be missed not only by his family, colleagues and the people of America,” said the KRG’s US representative Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman in a condolence message, “but also by a people in a faraway land called Kurdistan, a place that he visited many times and that he stood by, even after illness struck.”

The outreach is spearheaded by Greenberg Traurig and BGR Government Affairs, which were paid a combined $500,000 last year. Lobbyists for Erbil repeatedly reached out to McCain’s successor on the Armed Services Panel, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., in the first part of this year, while blanketing congressional staff and State Department officials with email requests.

Meanwhile, the KRG’s Interior Ministry has continued to press its case for the international community to help the semi-autonomous region deal with an influx of displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees. The ministry hired the strategic consultancy PASS last year to help convene an international donors conference for Iraqi Kurdistan and paid it a little more than $477,000 in 2018. Those plans have yet to pan out but the KRG did present its own investment projects at a Kuwaiti pledging conference for all of Iraq in February.

Separately, the KRG’s Washington office has continued to actively lobby top lawmakers, including setting up interviews with visiting Foreign Relations Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir with Senate Foreign Aid Spending Panel Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., as well as the top Democrats on Armed Services and Foreign Relations, Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J.

Meanwhile, Erbil has ramped up funding for the US mission, disbursing $1.9 million in the first half of this year — more than the $1.89 million received from Erbil in all of 2018. A spokesman for the Washington office told Al-Monitor that the increased transfers are meant to make up for past budgeting shortfalls as the KRG suffered a financial crisis in recent years.

The outreach has paid dividends. Earlier this year, the Washington office notably helped convince House lawmakers to include language in their version of annual defense legislation urging continued US support for the KRG’s armed forces, the peshmerga, “in order to continue to develop their capabilities, promote security sector reforms, and enhance sustainability and interoperability with the other elements of the Iraqi security forces in order to provide for Iraq’s lasting security against terrorist threats.”

In addition, the Washington liaison office shared its concerns about Trump’s planned troop withdrawal from Syria with Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. The country is worried that US disengagement from the region would weaken the US-backed Syrian Kurds in the country’s northeast and allow regional powers such as Turkey to fill the void, sending yet more refugees streaming across the border.

Despite its partial pullout from Syria, the US military is doubling down on support for Iraqi Kurdish forces. The Pentagon’s budget for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 seeks funding to modernize 12 peshmerga brigades, including $126 million in stipends for food and fuel and $123.4 million in maintenance support.

HIGHLIGHTS

Main lobbying firm:
PASS

 

 

$1.1 million

Total lobbying and PR spending for 2018

 

 

WINS
  • Pentagon seeks to modernize 12 peshmerga brigades
  • House bill calls for continued US support
  • Erbil makes up Washington budgeting shortfall
LOSSES
  • KRG fails to convene donor conference
  • US eager to pull out after ISIS defeat
  • Kurdish champion John McCain dies

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