DATAPOINTS

Includes lobbying by individual emirates

$18.2 Million

LOBBYING SPEND (2018)

15

LOBBYING/PR FIRMS

74

REGISTERED AGENTS

AL-MONITOR
LOBBYING RANK

#2 (tie)

UAE Strategies
(for UAE)

Hired: 2017
2018 fees: $720,000

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

The United Arab Emirates paid UAE Strategies $570,000 in the six-month period through August. The firm is run by Hagir Elawad, the former congressional affairs director for the UAE Embassy in Washington. Elawad disclosed accompanying Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba to meetings with Reps. Jack Bergman, R-Mich.; Jason Crow, D-Colo; Chris Stewart, R-Utah; and Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah; Chris Murphy, D-Conn.; Bob Menendez, D-N.J.; Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Todd Young, R-Ind. She also accompanied Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., to a meeting with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed March 18 in the UAE. Bergman notably led a June push to get Doha-based Al Jazeera listed as a foreign agent for UAE rival Qatar.

Edelman
(for Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing)

Hired: Nov. 2018
2018 fees: $4,000

NEW Registered agents
Yemiserach Endale
Amaya Starkey

Edelman has added two foreign agents to its Dubai tourism account: Yemiserach Endale and Amaya Starkey.

BCW
(for Emirate of Ras al-Khaimah)

Hired: May 2019
Contract: $84,000/month

NEW Informational materials

Public relations firm BCW is promoting the emirate of Ras al-Khaimah for hosting the first Middle East Stevie Awards. The Stevie Awards are an international business award competition founded in 2002. BCW has represented the emirate since June.

American Defense International
UAE Strategies subcontractor
(for UAE)

Hired: July 2018
2018 fees: $225,000

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

Fees: $270,000
Meetings: House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., Rep. Mike Waltz, R-Fla., Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Mich., Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., and Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J.

American Defense International (ADI) failed to prevent House lawmakers from adding language restricting arms sales to the United Arab Emirates in their version of the annual defense authorization bill, despite twice meeting House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash. Lobbyists for the firm also texted him once about the UAE withdrawal from Yemen and called him three times. ADI represents the UAE as a subcontractor to UAE Strategies. The firm’s lobbyists also met with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., to discuss “restrictions on sales to the UAE” on June 12 — the same day that two members of the committee, Reps. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J. and Ted Lieu, D-Calif., introduced resolutions to block arms sales to the UAE. Lobbyists from the firm also met with four members of the House Armed Services Committee — Reps. Mike Waltz, R-Fla., Joe Wilson, R-S.C., Jack Bergman, R-Mich., and Jason Crow, D-Colo. — in February and May. They also met with Senate Armed Services member Rick Scott, R-Fla., and Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J. in the six-month period ending July 31. The firm was paid $270,000 in those six months.

    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
    American Continental Group
    • Hired: 2018  
    • Registered agents

      • Christian Israel  
        Former deputy assistant secretary for technology policy at the Department of Commerce
      • Shawn Smeallie  
        Founder; former special assistant to President George H.W. Bush for legislative affairs
      • David Urban  
        President; former senior advisor to Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign
    • 2018 fees: $0
    Carmen Group
    terminated March 14, 2019
    • 2018 fees: $240,000

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 Washington Editor for Al-Monitor.

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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