Levick logo


$1.6 Million








(for Morocco)

Hired: Jan. 2018
2018 fees: $240,000

NEW Contract extension

Richard Smotkin’s firm, ThirdCircle, has extended its contract with Morocco by 12 months. In April 2018, the embassy signed a $40,000-per-month contract with Smotkin, a former Comcast executive, to promote Morocco as a film and golf destination. Smotkin helped arrange a controversial $100,000 trip to Morocco by then-Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt in December 2017.

JPC Strategies
(for Morocco)

Hired: Jan. 2018
2018 fees: $900,000

NEW Supplemental
(Aug. 1, 2019 – Jan. 31, 2019)
Meetings: Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla.

Morocco paid JPC Strategies $455,000 in the six months through January. The firm in turn disbursed $330,000 to its subcontractors on the account: $120,000 to Iron Bridge Strategies, $100,000 to Neale Creek, $90,000 to SGR Government Relations and Lobbying and $20,000 to the Glover Park Group (that last account was terminated Aug. 27). During that time, the firm’s founder and sole lobbyist on the account, former Ted Cruz deputy chief of staff James Christoferson, met with the offices of at least 15 House and Senate appropriators in October and November ahead of passage of the FY 2020 spending bill. The bill contains provisions on aid funding for the Moroccan-administered Western Sahara that fuel a rival lobbying campaign by Morocco and Algeria every year. Christoferson also met with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., and emailed with then-deputy national security adviser Victoria Coates and special assistant to the president for legislative affairs Paul Teller.

Glover Park Group
JPC Strategies subcontractor
(for Morocco via JPC Strategies)

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

NEW Supplemental
(Aug. 1, 2019 – Jan. 31, 2020)

The Glover Park Group received $20,000 from Morocco in the six-month period ending Jan. 31. The only lobbying activity the firm reported for Morocco were Aug. 26 emails to an aide to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., regarding “US-Morocco relations.” 

SGR Government Affairs and Lobbying
JPC Strategies subcontractor
(for Morocco)

Hired: Jan. 2018
2018 fees: $180,000

NEW Supplemental
(April 1, 2019 – Sept. 30, 2019)
Fees: $90,000

The lobbying activity log from SGR Government Relations & Lobbying for the six months through September offers fresh insights into Morocco’s trepidation as it offered a US reporter rare access to the Western Sahara. Lobbyists for the firm met with Wall Street Journal reporter Dion Nissenbaum five days in a row ahead of his May reporting trip to the disputed territory, and messaged him more than a dozen times during and after the trip. While there, Nissenbaum interviewed Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita and independence activists. He subsequently wrote a couple of news articles that mentioned the “news black hole” in the Moroccan-administered territory while also managing to infuriate the Polisario Front by reporting that Donald Trump administration officials have privately made it clear to Rabat that they have no interest in the Polisario’s dreams of an independent state. "The reporting Dion conducted in Morocco and the resulting work was independent and consistent with the Journal's high reporting standards,” the Journal told Al-Monitor in an emailed statement. “He was there with permission from the Moroccan government, which is required for any journalist interested in reporting inside the Western Sahara region." Morocco paid SGR $90,000 during that time period.

Neale Creek
JPC Strategies subcontractor
(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
JPC Strategies subcontractor
(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.

Morocco fails to gain traction with anti-Iran lobbying push


Julian Pecquet



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

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.


Main lobbying firm: JPC Strategies


$1.6 million

Total lobbying and PR spending for 2018



  • Trump fires Rabat bugbear John Bolton
  • Pompeo visits Morocco and skips rival Algeria
  • State Department OKs massive arms sales
  • Algeria beefs up rival lobbying operation
  • Bill linking Sahara advocates to Hezbollah flounders in Congress