DATAPOINTS

By banking sector

$950,000

LOBBYING SPEND (2018)

3

LOBBYING/PR FIRMS

11

REGISTERED AGENTS

AL-MONITOR
LOBBYING RANK

#17 (tie)

Squire Patton Boggs
(for Jammal Trust Bank)

Hired: Feb. 2019

NEW Related news

The US Treasury Department slapped sanctions on what it dubbed “Hezbollah’s Lebanon-based bank of choice” this week despite a late lobbying push by Washington powerhouse Squire Patton Boggs. The firm began lobbying the Donald Trump administration on behalf of Jammal Trust Bank on Feb. 26 but disclosed less than $5,000 in payments in each of the first two quarters of the year. Patton Boggs added former Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., to the account in the second quarter of 2019, where he joined Gassan Baloul and Laura Klick. 

  • Hired: 2019  
  • Contract: 1 Lebanese pound/month ($0.00066)
    Blank Rome Government Relations
    • Hired: 2017  
    • Latest Filing  
    • Registered agents

      • Spencer Abraham
        Former Secretary of Energy and Senator (R-Mich.)
      • Jennifer Ellison
      • David Thompson
    • 2018 fees: $170,000

Lebanon hires US adviser to keep aid flowing despite Hezbollah gains

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

Lebanese President Michel Aoun retained a US-based adviser this year to keep American aid flowing amid a growing backlash following Hezbollah’s gains in last year’s elections. The contract, dated June 12, calls on presidential adviser Antoine Haddad, a Maryland real estate developer, to “promote the continuous financial support of the United States to Lebanon and Lebanese institutions (such as the Lebanese armed forces and the internal security forces), and the economic and justice sectors.”

Haddad will also work to “promote an attractive investment climate, expand trade relations and remove obstacles to trade and investment between Lebanon and the United States.” The contract, which was registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, calls for Haddad to be paid one symbolic Lebanese lira — less than one US cent — per month. Haddad is a co-founder of the Lebanese American Council for Democracy along with Lebanon’s ambassador to the United States, Gabriel Issa.

The contract comes as the Treasury Department sanctioned two Lebanese members of parliament for their ties to Hezbollah — Amin Sherri and Muhammad Hasan Rad — along with senior security official Wafiq Safa for the first time in July. A month later, the Treasury doubled down with sanctions on Jammal Trust Bank, dubbing it “Hezbollah’s bank of choice” in a blow to Lebanon’s reputation for combating terrorism financing.

Congress has also stepped in, passing sanctions legislation las year that notably called on the president to present to lawmakers a list of individuals who are members of the Lebanese Parliament and who identify as members of the Iranian-backed Shiite militia-cum-party. The bill from Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and then-House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., also calls on the US administration to identify any “significant conduct” that may be grounds for their designation.

The State Department has also begun looking more skeptically at bilateral relations with Lebanon despite a longtime US policy of boosting the Lebanese Armed Forces as a counterweight to Hezbollah. The State Department is seeking $133.2 million in economic and security aid for Lebanon for the coming fiscal year, down 13% over last year’s $152.8 million. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo himself called for a review of US security assistance during his first official appearance before Congress as secretary of state days after the election.

Despite the rhetoric, the Donald Trump administration has continued to equip the Lebanese army with lethal weaponry. Days before last year's elections, the Pentagon notified Congress that it would be providing the Lebanese Armed Forces with trucks and Humvees mounted with .50-caliber machine guns drawn from the Pentagon’s $1.4 billion-a-year global train-and-equip fund. And this year the Trump administration plans to provide the Lebanese military with more than $100 million in upgrades to US-provided tanks and attack helicopters from a separate counter-terrorism fund.

Even as Hezbollah has made gains against Prime Minister Saad Hariri's allies in parliament, last year the Sunni leader tapped his longtime Washington adviser Amal Mudallali to be the country's permanent representative to the United Nations. There she has led the charge that Israel is violating Lebanese sovereignty with the construction of a concrete wall at the border and helped push through a one-year renewal of the UN peacekeeping mission at the border with Israel.

Separately, the nonprofit American Task Force for Lebanon hired Jay Ghazal, a former aide to then-Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Claiborne Pell, D-R.I., in March to lobby Congress and the State Department on foreign aid appropriations for Lebanon. Ghazal and Associates was paid a total of $10,000 before the contract ended in June. Ghazal was also paid $200,000 in 2018 and $100,000 in the first half of 2019 to lobby for Lebanese American University in Beirut, which he has represented since 2012.

Meanwhile, the cash-strapped country's vital financial sector continues its uphill battle to immunize itself from US sanctions on Hezbollah and terrorism lawsuits in US courts. Shortly before being hit by sanctions, Beirut-based Jammal Trust Bank hired Squire Patton Boggs in February, one month after being named along with 10 other Lebanese banks in a lawsuit filed by families of US service members killed or injured in Iraq between 2004 and 2011.

The Middle East and Africa Bank, which was sued along with Jammal Trust Bank, the Association of Banks of Lebanon, IBL Bank, Al-Mawarid Bank, Fenicia Bank and Cedrus Bank, have all retained US lobbyists. All together, the Lebanese banking sector spent $950,000 on US lobbying in 2018 and $450,000 in the first half of 2019, down from $1.27 million in 2017.

In other Lebanese business lobbying, embattled Lebanese shipbuilder Privinvest Holding hired BGR Government Affairs in May to “serve as a liaison and provide strategic advice and counsel on US policies that could impact the client.” BGR was paid $150,000 in the second quarter of 2019 as Privinvest battles allegations of involvement in a debt scandal in Mozambique.

Finally, an Italian businessman who consults for London-based oil company BB Energy Trading hired a former staffer for Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., Alexander Beckles, in July to help arrange meetings between Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and members of Congress. Mario LaSala, who is based in Romania, is supposed to pay Virginia-based Alexander J. Beckles LLC $20,000 “to influence the relations between the United States and Lebanon and Lebanon's neighbors.”

HIGHLIGHTS

Main lobbying firm for banking sector:
Squire Patton Boggs

 

 

$950,000

Total lobbying and PR spending for 2018 (banking sector)

 

 

WINS
  • State Department still sees Lebanese Armed Forces as bulwark against Hezbollah
  • Pentagon provides Humvees, tanks and helicopters to LAF
  • US embassy in Beirut supports sending refugees back to Syria
LOSSES
  • Treasury Department sanctions parliament members, bank for Hezbollah ties
  • Pompeo calls for assistance review as State Department slashes aid request
  • Lebanese banks hit with new terrorism lawsuit in New York

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