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Martin Klucar still isn’t sure if he needs help from a lobby shop. As a consul at the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Washington, Klucar recently sent out a request for proposal to at least four firms in town, seeking help in leveling out the inequalities within the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. The embassy wants the U.S. government to waive the visa requirement for citizens of several U.S. allied countries in Eastern Europe, including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Slovakia. Klucar says his embassy is uncertain if it will eventually need the help of Washington powerbrokers to achieve its objectives. “We’re trying to find out if this is the way to go or not,” says Klucar, who declines to say which firms received the proposal request. “There’s still talking about what they might do and what connections they have in Congress.” The visa issue is an example of the increased use of top-shelf Washington representation by the international community. Although overall lobbying revenues were down in 2006 for many K Street firms, plenty of shops saw a significant spike in their filings under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, the law that requires lobbyists working for foreign governments, principals, and political parties to register their contacts with the U.S. Department of Justice. With a number of free trade deals being rammed through last year and bipartisan outrage over the attempt by the United Arab Emirates-owned company Dubai Ports World to run some key U.S. ports, foreign countries were willing to pay handsomely for Washington firms with sizable international practices. And many lobbyists say they don’t expect such work to abate much in the future. Michael Lempres, executive managing director and head of the Carmen Group’s international practice, says he “will be stunned” if more firms are not looking abroad in 2007 for work. “It’s truly a question of the world getting smaller,” says Lempres, whose firm reported $300,000 in FARA filings in 2006 and represents such clients as Bayelsa, a state in the southern region of Nigeria. “Some lobbying firms are naturally reluctant to get involved in some international issues because the firm is so D.C.-focused and so much of the bread and butter is maintaining a clean reputation before Congress. But the demand is overwhelming for clients doing things overseas.” Adds Gregg Hartley, chief operating officer of Cassidy & Associates: “Firms have recognized that building that kind of international work was a good profit center. It pays well, but it’s more about consulting and advising business than doing the lifts on the Hill.” Cassidy’s FARA figures went up by $1 million from 2005. The firm represents Equatorial Guinea, the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico, and the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, a humanitarian organization that is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. One of the firms that was most active internationally in 2006 was the Loeffler Group, which increased its international profits by $5.5 million from 2005 to 2006. According to FARA disclosure reports, the firm represented the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on matters pertaining to Saudi Arabia’s accession to the World Trade Organization, as well as its relationship with the U.S. Congress and the Bush administration. The firm arranged meetings in late 2005 and 2006 between Prince Turki Al-Faisal (who served as Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States from September 2005 until February 2007) and lawmakers including Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Arlen Specter (R-Penn.), Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), and John McCain (R-Ariz.) to discuss Saudi-U.S. relations. And the country paid amply for it. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry of Saudi Arabia alone paid the firm more than $2 million in 2006 for such contacts. Loeffler also reported in its filings receiving a 6-inch decorated wooden box of figs and fruit from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia via the Saudi Embassy.
Top Firms’ Foreign Lobbying Revenue
Firm FARA 2005 FARA 2006
Loeffler Group $1,373,729 $6,857,638
Barbour Griffith & Rogers $2,467,219 $4,733,299
Cassidy & Associates $1,600,000 $2,614,125
Venable $298,890 $1,037,301
Patton Boggs $4,825,733 $1,510,628
Source: Department of Justice FARA records

Marcus Kraker, executive director of the Loeffler Group’s D.C. office, says his firm represented Saudi Arabia with their accession to the WTO in 2005 and continued to work on WTO compliance issues for the kingdom last year, in addition to U.S. government affairs work, which the group continues to assist the country on. He notes that his firm also represents the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office. Clark Consulting Federal Policy Group’s international work increased by $90,000. Ken Kies, the firm’s managing director, says it was all trade-related. In December 2006, 30 years after the Vietnam War, the United States permanently normalized trade relations with Saigon. The bipartisan measure was passed before the Republican Congress ceded power to the Democrats. Additionally, the U.S.-Peru Free Trade Agreement was signed last April. But uncertainty over what the Democratic Congress will do on trade remains high for lobbyists like Kies. “Everyone now is holding their breath,” says Kies. “Is trade dead, or will there be some significant movement to accommodate Democratic demand on labor issues?” Some Democratic lobbyists echo this sentiment, noting that there remains a large divide between the more conservative members of the caucus and the liberal wing of the party on the issue of free trade, despite a general legislative desire to push for fast-track and some bilateral agreements. EASTERN EUROPE TO THE MIDDLE EAST The waning days of Republican dominance were particularly good to the all-Republican shop Barbour Griffith & Rogers, which increased its international revenue by $2.3 million, according to FARA disclosure documents. The firm was active in pushing the Henry J. Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006. The act, a bilateral agreement adopted last December, allows the United States to sell technology to India for civil nuclear power and commits India to separating its civilian nuclear facilities from its military facilities. Additionally, the firm continues to globe-hop, picking up the government of Serbia last year, and continues to represent clients in Russia and the Middle East. “Relationships are critical, but we recognize that we need to offer more than just a high-priced Rolodex,” says Andrew Parasiliti, vice president of Barbour Griffith’s international practice. “Increasingly, more of our work focuses on business development, trade, and technology, in addition to advocacy with the executive branch and the Congress.” One of the firms that saw a drop in its FARA figures was Patton Boggs. The firm’s revenues decreased by $3.3 million in 2006. Stuart Pape, managing partner at Patton Boggs, says firms can have “little blips that don’t signal anything.” And Frank Samolis, a partner at Patton Boggs who specializes in trade matters, says the drop was due to 2006 being a congressional election year and expects his firm to get more FARA activity in 2007. With President George W. Bush returning later in the week from a five-day trip to Latin America, and with the administration currently setting much of the international agenda for the next year and a half of the Bush presidency, it’s unlikely that international matters will take a back seat for the K Street tribe. In fact, late last month, the Embassy of Colombia sent out a request for proposal, seeking to hire a lobbying firm to promote favorable consideration of the free trade agreement between the United States and Colombia. According to the letter, the proposal should include, among other things, a “brief description of the plan to reach members of both parties, with particular focus on the Democratic party.” “There’s a growing recognition about the independent role of Congress in making governmental decisions and people are seeking more advice about the congressional process and how decisions are made,” says Gordon Giffin, who chairs the public policy and international department at McKenna Long & Aldridge. “There’s not a huge, but certainly a modest, upward trend in that interest.”

Joe Crea can be contacted at [email protected].

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