DATAPOINTS

For government and agencies

$11.1 Million

LOBBYING SPEND (2018)

22

LOBBYING/PR FIRMS

72

REGISTERED AGENTS

AL-MONITOR
LOBBYING RANK

#5 (tie)

Neale Creek
(for Qatar)

Hired: Sept. 2019
Contract: $50,000/month

NEW Contract

Andrew King, a former lobbyist for the Glover Park Group (GPG), has registered to represent Qatar via his Maryland-based firm, Neale Creek. King, a managing director at GPG who left the firm last month, has also begun representing Morocco through a separate contract. King will be paid $50,000 per month for the Qatar contract and $20,000 per month for the Morocco 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
Venable subcontractor
(for Qatar)

Hired: Feb. 2018
2018 fees: $275,000

NEW Supplemental
(Feb. 1, 2019 – July 31, 2019)

Fees: $150,000

Iron Bridge Strategies received $150,000 from Venable as a subcontractor for Qatar in the second half of 2018. The lobbying shop run by Chris Berardini, former chief of staff for ex-Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., only reported emails with staffers on behalf of Qatar.

Avenue Strategies Global
(for Qatar)

Hired: July 2017
2018 fees: $685,000

NEW Supplemental
(Feb. 1, 2019 – July 31, 2019)

Fees: None

Avenue Strategies Global disclosed no lobbying or fees for Qatar in the six-month period ending July 31.

McDermott Will & Emery
(for Qatar)

Hired: July 2017
2018 fees: $480,000

NEW Supplemental
(Feb. 1, 2019 – July 31, 2019)

Fees: $200,000
Meetings: Reps. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.; James Himes, D-Conn.; Andre Carson, D-Ind.; William Keating, D-Mass.; Juan Vargas, D-Calif.; Daniel Kildee, D-Mich.; Ami Bera, D-Calif.; Christopher Stewart, R-Utah; Donald Norcross, D-N.J.; John Carter, R-Texas; Donald Bacon, R-Neb.; Brian Mast, R-Fla.; Francis Rooney, R-Fla.; Daniel Crenshaw, R-Texas; Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo.; Vern Buchanan, R-Fla.; Peter Visclosky, D-Ind.; Elaine Luria, D-Va.; Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J.; Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.; Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md.; Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C.; Rep. Trent Kelly, R-Miss.; Washington, DC, council member Jack Evans

Lobbyists for McDermott Will & Emery met with 23 members of Congress (13 Democrats and 10 Republicans) on behalf of Qatar and during the six months through July. They accompanied 14 lawmakers — Reps. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.; James Himes, D-Conn.; Andre Carson, D-Ind.; William Keating, D-Mass.; Juan Vargas, D-Calif.; Daniel Kildee, D-Mich.; Ami Bera, D-Calif.; Christopher Stewart, R-Utah; Donald Norcross, D-N.J.; John Carter, R-Texas; Donald Bacon, R-Neb.; Brian Mast, R-Fla.; Francis Rooney, R-Fla. and Daniel Crenshaw, R-Texas —  at a dinner with Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani during his attendance at the Global Coalition to Defeat the Islamic State summit in Washington in February. A month later, Reps. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., and Trent Kelly, R-Miss., attended a dinner with Defense Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah during his visit to Washington. The firm also reported a May 29 “breakfast regarding potential investments” with embattled Washington, DC, council member Jack Evans. Evans’s Ward 2 district includes City Center, which is mostly owned by Qatar. McDermott was paid $200,000 during the period.

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman
(for Qatar)

Hired: March 2018
2018 fees: $1 million

NEW Supplemental
(Feb. 1, 2019 – July 31, 2019)

Fees: None

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman did not report any payments from Qatar in the six-month period ending July 31, but the firm paid the Sitrick Group, which stopped working for Qatar on Jan. 31, $300,000 in February.

Barzan Aeronautical
(for Barzan Holdings)

Registered: Feb. 2019

NEW Supplemental
(March 1, 2019 – Aug. 31, 2019)

Receipts: $6.5 million

South Carolina-based Qatari spy plane company Barzan Aeronautical received $6.5 million from its Doha-based parent company, Barzan Holdings, in the six-month period ending Aug. 31. Barzan Aeronautical paid law firm Ott, Bielitzki & O'Neill $1.2 million in that period for “legal counsel and expenses” and disclosed paying an unnamed “commercial vendor” $3.8 million on Aug. 22. The firm’s employees sent meeting requests to more than a dozen congressional staffers and attended a South Carolina Department of Commerce/Charleston County Economic Development luncheon that included a “discussion of future business development in Charleston.”

Choharis Law Group
(for Qatar National Human Rights Committee)

Hired: Feb. 2018
2018 fees: $345,000

NEW Q2 domestic lobbying filing

Fees: $120,000

The Qatar National Human Rights Committee paid the Choharis Law Group $120,000 in the second quarter of 2019. The firm lobbied the House of Representatives and State Department on restoring the ability of Qataris to travel to Saudi Arabia for religious pilgrimages; permit the “reunification of families in [the] Gulf region that is barred by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and UAE”; and explored “possible compensation mechanisms for human rights victims.”

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough
(for Qatar)

Hired: July 2017
2018 fees: $1.5 million

NEW Hire
Former Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va.

Qatar lobbyist and former Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., is moving to Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough from McDermott Will & Emery, where he will continue to represent the Qatari embassy to the US, Politico reports. Moran told Politico that he moved so he could “coordinate better all of Qatar’s activities,” and that “the embassy, I think wisely, decided that they should coordinate more and consolidate the activities.” Moran helped found advocacy group DAWN (Democracy in the Arab World Now) alongside Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz.

Mercury Public Affairs
(for Qatar)

Hired: Jan. 2015
2018 fees: $1.2 million

NEW Termination
Former Rep. Vin Weber, R-Minn.

Former Rep. Vin Weber, R-Minn., has resigned from his position at Mercury Public Affairs, where he notably worked as a foreign agent for Qatar, amid scrutiny of his work for Ukraine.

Qatar fends off congressional attacks on Al Jazeera

Editor

Julian Pecquet

@JPecquet_ALM

jpecquet@al-monitor.com
bookmark

Julian Pecquet is the Washington Editor for Al-Monitor.

Posted: September 11, 2019

Middle East news giant Al Jazeera has emerged as a major battleground in the fight for Washington influence between Qatar and its Gulf rivals.

The Doha-based network hired DLA Piper in June and paid the law firm $40,000 that month to provide US policymakers with “informational communications regarding client's journalism, press freedom, and other issues impacting client's US operations.” The lobbying push comes as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Republican lawmakers have been doubling down on their campaign to cast the network as a foreign agent of Qatar rather than a legitimate news outlet.

Pressure on Al Jazeera has been building since 19 lawmakers led by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Reps. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., and Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., asked the Justice Department to investigate whether the outlet should be required to register as a foreign agent in March 2018. Five months later, Congress passed an annual defense authorization bill that requires US-based foreign media outlets to file biannual reports to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) describing their legal status and government funding.

Lobbyists for the UAE, which shares Republicans’ distaste for Al Jazeera’s support for Islamists and other groups that threaten the regional status quo, have jumped into the fray to argue that the news outlet should register with the FCC. Since the first half of 2018, longtime UAE lobbyist Akin Gump has courted lawmakers including Cruz and Zeldin and met with FCC officials to find out more about the new reporting requirement, as well as with the general counsel of the pro-Israel lobby American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

The campaign has forced Qatar to remain on the defensive. The country’s embassy in Washington alone has added 12 firms to its lobbying roster since Saudi Arabia and the UAE declared an embargo in June 2017, including two this year and six in 2018. Qatari government lobbying spending totaled $11.1 million in 2018 — less than the $18.5 million spent in 2017 but still three times more than the $3.6 million spent in 2016.

Despite the unwanted attention, Qatar remains a key US partner in the region. Doha is notably shelling out $1.8 billion for improvements to the main US air base in the region at al-Udeid and buying billions of dollars worth of US weapons, including 24 new Apache attack helicopters.

Paradoxically, Qatar’s maverick foreign policy, while isolating the emirate from its neighbors, has also allowed the country to play an outsized diplomatic role. Having accommodated senior members of the Taliban since 2013, Doha is now hosting peace talks between the Afghan Islamists and the Donald Trump administration.

Likewise in the Gaza Strip, Qatar’s relations with Hamas, while anathema to many lawmakers in Congress, allowed Doha to help broker a cease-fire with Israel in May and spearhead talks to try to end the current spate of violence. The Trump administration’s decision to end US aid to the Palestinians has also boosted Qatar’s profile, with Doha pledging $480 million to help prevent the financial collapse of the Palestinian Authority.

HIGHLIGHTS

Main lobbying firm:
Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough

 

 

$11.1 million

Total lobbying and PR spending for 2018

 

 

WINS
  • Pentagon deepens military ties
  • Doha hosts US-Taliban talks
  • US aid freeze to Palestinians elevates Qatar
LOSSES
  • Congress raises pressure on Al Jazeera
  • US fails to settle intra-Gulf dispute
  • Gulf foes ramp up costly lobbying war

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