LOBBYING TRACKER

PRESENTED BY

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DATAPOINTS

Includes lobbying by individual emirates

$18.2 Million

LOBBYING SPEND (2018)

15

LOBBYING/PR FIRMS

73

REGISTERED AGENTS

AL-MONITOR
LOBBYING RANK

#2 (tie)

Gilliland & McKinney International Counsellors
Akin Gump subcontractor
(for UAE)

Hired: April 2019

NEW Supplemental
(May 1, 2019 – Oct. 31, 2019)
Fees: $8,000

John Gilliland, the Senate Finance Committee’s former international trade counsel, met with aides to Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., on behalf of the United Arab Emirates in June and September. They discussed “foreign media developments and the Foreign Agents Registration Act,” an apparent reference to UAE efforts to force Qatari media giant Al Jazeera to register as a foreign agent (more on that here). Gilliland & McKinney International Counsellors was paid $8,000 in the six-month period ending Oct. 31 after being hired in April as a subcontractor to UAE lobbying firm Akin Gump.

Project Associates UK
Client: National Media Council of the UAE

Hired: Oct. 2017
2018 fees: $0

NEW Supplemental
(May 1, 2019 – Oct. 31, 2019)
Fees: $0

Project Associates UK did not disclose any US political activities or related payments in the six months through October as it continued to raise “awareness about state-sponsored terrorism in the Middle East” and highlight “the Arab world’s regional dynamics and policy achievements, and global alliances” on behalf of the National Media Council of the United Arab Emirates.

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
(for UAE)

Hired: 2007
2018 fees: $3.6 million

NEW Registered foreign agent
Charles Johnson

Akin Gump partner Charles Johnson has registered to lobby on the firm’s United Arab Emirates account. He will notably provide counsel on policy issues including “export controls and sanctions, trade policies, human rights, US foreign and defense policies, foreign media registration, and strengthening bilateral relations and regional security.” (The foreign media registration is a reference to the UAE’s campaign against Qatar-based Al Jazeera).

 

Harbour Group
(for Executive Affairs Authority of Abu Dhabi)

Hired: 2016
2018 fees: $230,000

NEW Supplemental
(April 1, 2019 – Sept. 30, 2019)
Fees: $118,000

Harbour Group received $118,000 from the UAE’s Executive Affairs Authority for “strategic communications counsel” regarding an “ongoing project in the United Kingdom.”

Harbour Group
(for UAE)

Hired: 2009
2018 fees: $5 million

NEW Supplemental
(April 1, 2019 – Sept. 30, 2019)
Fees: $3.4 million

NEW Registered foreign agents
Jennifer Baaklini
Kolby Keo

NEW Terminated foreign agent
Tessa Carelli

The United Arab Emirates Embassy paid the Harbour Group more than $3.4 million in the six months through September for public relations services and lobbying, including a meeting between “visiting UAE officials” and Under Secretary of Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker on Sept. 20, the same day the United States announced sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank. Harbour Group lobbyists also met with Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, the executive director of New York University’s Bronfman Center for Jewish Life whose appointment as the first chief rabbi for UAE Jews was announced on May 14 at a joint event between the embassy and the Anti-Defamation League. Lobbyists also met with former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, now with the investment firm SkyBridge Alternatives. The firm also huddled with Boston Public Schools and Boston Children’s Hospital after a $275,000 UAE gift to the school district for a new soccer field drew activists’ ire.

In addition, Harbour Group director of digital strategy Jennifer Baaklini and Kolby Keo, a senior associate who’s president of Young Professionals in Foreign Policy, have joined the firm’s account with the United Arab Emirates Embassy in Washington. Tessa Carelli has stopped working on the Harbour Group’s account with the United Arab Emirates as of July 26. Oddly, the Justice Department has no record of her ever registering in the first place. The Harbour Group did not respond to a request for clarification.

UAE Strategies
(for UAE)

Hired: 2017
2018 fees: $720,000

NEW Informational materials

United Arab Emirates lobbyist UAE Strategies has been lobbying for legislation authorizing the State Department to help fund a United States pavilion at next year’s Expo 2020 Dubai, arguing it would “benefit US companies and public diplomacy efforts.” The House of Representatives approved the bill late last month. Expo2020 Dubai separately hired Sanitas International in April for $1.044 million to help promote the world fair, the first to be held in the Middle East/North Africa region.

American Continental Group
(for Emirates Global Aluminium)

Hired: Oct. 2018
2018 fees: $0

NEW Termination

NEW Supplemental
(May 1, 2019 – Oct. 31, 2019)
Fees: $20,000

American Continental Group stopped working for Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA) on Sept. 4. In the six-month period ending Oct. 31, the firm engaged in “internal discussions for possible location of a manufacturing facility in the United States” and was paid $20,000. American Continental was originally hired in October 2018 to help EGA obtain a Treasury Department license for its subsidiary, the Guinea Alumina Corporation.

Definers
Akin Gump subcontractor
(for UAE)

Hired: Dec. 2017
2018 fees: $220,000 (from Harbour Group)

NEW Registered foreign agent
Joseph Perticone

Joseph Perticone, a former politics reporter with Business Insider, is now lobbying for the United Arab Emirates via Definers, a right-leaning opposition research firm. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld hired the group as a subcontractor in 2017 focusing on the UAE’s influence campaign against Qatar. Perticone disclosed donating $25 to Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson on Oct. 4.

Etihad Airways
(in-house)

Hired: 2014
2018 fees: $160,000

NEW Q3 domestic lobbying filing

Fees: $40,000

Etihad Airways spent $40,000 on in-house lobbying in the third quarter regarding the Open Skies agreement between the United States and the United Arab Emirates. The Emirati airline lobbied Congress, the White House, the Office of the US Trade Representative, the International Trade Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Transportation Security Administration, US Customs & Border Protection, and the departments of State, Homeland Security, Commerce and Transportation.

TRG Advisory Services
(for UAE)

Hired: Sept. 2018
2018 fees: $540,000

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

Fees: $540,000

David Rothkopf’s TRG Advisory Services received $540,000 from United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the US Youssef al-Otaiba in September. Rothkopf, the former CEO and editor of the FP Group, signed a $50,000-per-month contract with the embassy in September 2018. In the six months ending in September 2019, he and Rothkopf Group executive vice president Christopher Cotnoir “continued to work on the development and evaluation of ideas for projects focused on the issues enumerated in our original contract,” but noted that the firm’s “activities on behalf of UAE are currently in the planning stage.”

    Michael Korens
    Former counsel to US Senate Aviation Subcommittee
    • 2018 fees: $40,000
    Williams and Jensen
    • Hired: 2015  
    • Latest Filing  
    • Registered agents

      • Christopher Hatcher
      • Susan Hirschmann
      • Matthew Hoekstra
      • Karina Lynch
      • Melinda Maxfield
      • Erin Mullen
      • Laura Simmons
      • David Starr
      • Eric Stewart
    • 2018 fees: $60,000
    Federal Advocates
    • Hired: 2019  
    • Registered agents

      • Jennifer Arangio
        Former National Security Council senior director for International Organizations and Alliances
      • Michael Esposito
        Founder
      • Kevin Talley

UAE seeks to shield itself from Gulf blowback

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 United Arab Emirates (UAE) spent more than $18 million last year to try to tar one Gulf neighbor and dodge the blowback against another.

Already one of the biggest spenders in the Washington influence game before its diplomatic break with Qatar in June 2017, the UAE has almost doubled its lobbying and public relations budget since then in an effort to paint Doha as an untrustworthy US ally. In recent months that effort has largely focused on trying to force Al Jazeera to register as a foreign agent of Qatar in a bid to curtail the rebellious network’s reach.

But the UAE has also had to defend its own policies as Abu Dhabi under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan plays an increasingly assertive role in the region.

That campaign has run into unforeseen complications over the past year as the UAE’s main ally, Saudi Arabia, fell out of favor in Washington following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Bipartisan outrage over the killing soon translated into congressional pressure to end US refueling support and arms sales to the Saudi and Emirati alliance against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, although President Donald Trump used his veto to keep US arms sales flowing.

The UAE still has concerns, however. A month-old lobbying filing by UAE lobbyist American Defense International reveals a list of amendments the country wants dropped from the pending annual defense bill, including a congressional demand for a detailed description of the military involvement by the UAE and other countries in the conflict in Libya, restrictions on US support for the UAE and Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen, and a request for a study on how the United States monitors exports of surveillance-related capabilities and their potential for abuse by foreign governments.

The emirates are also facing backlash for their support for southern secessionists in Yemen, who have their own lobbying presence here in Washington. Previously a key ally against the Houthis, the UAE is now facing accusations from the Yemeni government — disseminated by its embassy in Washington — of having bombed government forces. The increasingly messy situation and resulting civilian casualties have only strengthened US calls for an end to the four-year war, with the Wall Street Journal reporting late last month that the Trump administration now wants to open direct talks with the Houthis.

With its role on the international stage coming under scrutiny, the UAE is intent on showcasing its domestic reforms and achievements. In a region wracked by religious intolerance, the emirates scored a PR coup when it hosted Pope Francis in February for the first ever visit by a pontiff to the Arabian Peninsula.

Meanwhile, the UAE’s influence operations in Washington have continued to grow. Ambassador to the US Yousef al-Otaiba hired TRG Advisory Services in September 2018 for $50,000 per month to help develop US programs “with a particular focus on programs associated with science, technology, cultural diplomacy, education, tolerance, values, women's empowerment and related areas.” And this July, the embassy retained the Glover Park Group for $80,000 to conduct in-person focus groups and nationwide online community discussions regarding unspecified “public attitudes” through September.

HIGHLIGHTS

Main lobbying firm:
Camstoll Group

 

 

$18.2 million

Total lobbying and PR spending for 2018

 

 

WINS
  • Trump preserves arms sales for Yemen campaign
  • US steps pressure campaign on Iran
  • UAE hailed for religious tolerance
LOSSES
  • Congress revolts against Yemen war
  • UAE comes under fire for role in Libya
  • Saudi ally loses clout in Washington

  • Trip: April 12, 2019 to April 19, 2019
    5 staffers; $20,000
  • Trip: Oct. 13, 2018 to Oct. 19, 2018
    7 staffers; $19,000
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