DATAPOINTS

$1.6 Million

LOBBYING SPEND (2018)

6

LOBBYING/PR FIRMS

12

REGISTERED AGENTS

AL-MONITOR
LOBBYING RANK

#14 (tie)

Neale Creek
(for Morocco via JPC Strategies)

Hired: Sept. 2019
Contract: $20,000/month

NEW Contract

Andrew King, a Morocco lobbyist for the Glover Park Group (GPG) until the firm parted with Rabat on Aug. 27, has registered to represent the country via his Maryland-based firm, Neale Creek. King, a managing director at GPG who left the firm last month, has also begun representing Qatar. The Morocco contract is with JPC Strategies, the firm started by James Christoferson, former deputy chief of staff to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. King will be paid $20,000 per month for the Morocco contract and $50,000 per month for the Qatar contract. Interestingly, Moroccan King Mohammad VI was the first Arab leader to visit Doha after Saudi Arabia and its allies began blockading Qatar in June 2017.

Iron Bridge Strategies
(for Morocco via JPC Strategies)

Hired: Jan. 2018
2018 fees: $240,000

NEW Supplemental
(Jan. 1, 2018 – June 30, 2018)

Fees: $120,000

Iron Bridge Strategies received $120,000 from JPC Strategies as a subcontractor to Morocco work in the second half of 2018. The lobbying shop run by former Hill aide Chris Berardini reported eight meetings with Capitol Hill staffers regarding Morocco.

Glover Park Group
(for Morocco via JPC Strategies)

Hired: Jan. 2018
2018 fees: $200,000

NEW termination amendment

The Glover Park Group ceased to lobby for Morocco on Aug. 27 as a subcontractor to JPC Strategies. It’s the second North African client the firm has lost this year, after Egypt ended its $2 million-a-year contract with the firm in January. Glover Park’s $20,000-per-month Morocco contract with JPC was signed in January 2018 and was initially set to end July 1, 2019. Glover Park received a total of $160,000 this year from JPC.

Morocco fails to gain traction with anti-Iran lobbying push

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

Morocco spent more than $1.6 million last year marketing itself to Washington as a crucial partner on the front lines of the showdown with Iran.

The results so far have been disappointing.

Legislation tying Hezbollah to the pro-independence movement in the Moroccan-administered Western Sahara has gone nowhere in Congress for a second year in a row. More concerning, Rabat’s concerns about John Bolton’s longtime sympathy for the disputed territory’s native Sahrawis were confirmed in December when the US national security adviser cast doubts about the future of the UN mission that has kept the peace on Morocco’s doorstep for the past 28 years.

The setback calls into question Rabat’s 2017 decision to ditch its longstanding lobby shop, the Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) and its chairman Edward Gabriel, a former US ambassador to Morocco under President Bill Clinton. This February, Rabat also terminated its decadelong relationship with former Rep. Toby Moffett, D-Conn., who had worked for the Moroccan Embassy in Washington since 2010, first through his now-defunct Moffett Group and since 2014 via Chicago law firm Mayer Brown.

Morocco has replaced both MACP and Mayer Brown with firms seen as better equipped to navigate President Donald Trump’s Washington.

In January 2018, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs signed a $75,000-per-month contract with JPC Strategies, the firm started by James Christoferson, a former deputy chief of staff for Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. That same month, the Moroccan Embassy in Washington inked a $40,000-per-month deal with Third Circle, a firm run by Richard Smotkin, a friend of former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who resigned last year amid ethics scandals. (Third Circle advises the embassy on business opportunities, including attracting the US film industry to Morocco.)

During Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita’s September 2018 trip to Washington, Christoferson was able to secure meetings with Cruz as well as with Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Todd Young, R-Ind., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the chairman of the Senate Appropriations panel on foreign aid. Christoferson also disclosed several meetings and phone calls with staffers for Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., the sponsor of legislation denouncing “provocative actions” by the pro-independence Polisario Front and taking note of Morocco’s accusations that Iran-backed Hezbollah supports the group. (The resolution, introduced in March, has only three co-sponsors: Reps. Gerry Connolly, D-Va.; Ted Yoho, R-Fla.; and Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.)

Moroccan diplomacy has been able to secure some wins, including a commitment by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to relaunch the Strategic Dialogue between the two countries. The dialogue’s working group on Africa held its first meeting in February and its security component met in July, with a focus on defeating the Islamic State “and other terrorist groups” in Africa.

The kingdom also scored a January visit by former Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., and other leaders of the Republican Jewish Coalition amid hope for a diplomatic breakthrough with Israel. The group was accompanied by Morocco lobbyist Andrew King of the Glover Park Group, a subcontractor to JPC. Soon after, Axios reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had met with Bourita on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York last September.

The flurry of activity, however, has done little to mitigate Morocco’s concerns that it is losing its messaging war over the Western Sahara inside the Trump administration. “All we want to do is hold a referendum for 70,000 voters,” Bolton said in December, calling into questioning the renewal of the UN peacekeeping mission MINURSO without progress on a long-promised vote on Sahrawi independence. “It’s 27 years later, the status of the territory [is] still unresolved. … Is there not a way to resolve this?”

To make matters worse, independence advocate Algeria has beefed up its lobbying presence this year by retaining former National Rifle Association President David Keene and his network of political connections. Keene scored meetings with an A-list of Republicans in his first six months on the job, including Bolton.

Separately from its political advocacy, Morocco spent another $860,000 in payments to the Moroccan National Tourist Office to promote the country as a travel destination.

HIGHLIGHTS

Main lobbying firm: JPC Strategies

 

$1.6 million

Total lobbying and PR spending for 2018

 

 

WINS
  • Pompeo relaunches Morocco-US Strategic Dialogue
  • Israel advocates laud warming diplomatic ties with Morocco
  • Lawmakers introduce bill linking Sahara advocates to Hezbollah
LOSSES
  • Bolton backs Sahara independence movement
  • Algeria beefs up rival lobbying operation
  • Hezbollah bill flounders in Congress

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