Filings submitted in recent months by several U.S.-based consultancy, law and lobbying firms under the Foreign Agent Registration Act with the U.S. Justice Department reveal some details of lobbying efforts in the United States undertaken by billionaire politician Bidzina Ivanishvili, who leads major opposition coalition Georgian Dream.
Ivanishvili contracted earlier this year campaign consultancy, lobbying and law firms, such as National Strategies, Patton Boggs, and others, which initially made disclosure filings with the Congress under the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) – legislation which requires lobbying teams to register work done on behalf of private individuals. But after Ivanishvili formally launched his political party, his lobbying and consultancy teams apparently had to register with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), which requires more detailed disclosure of lobbying services provided to foreign governments and foreign political parties.
Patton Boggs indicates in its filing under FARA that some of its services may involve advocating on behalf of Ivanishvili with members of Congress, their staffs, and members of the Obama Administration “on the punitive measures taken by the Georgian government which restricted his [Ivanishvili’s] civil and political freedoms”, as well as advocacy on “the selective application of punitive measures against Cartu Bank.”
Patton Boggs charges Ivanishvili a flat rate of USD 160,000 per month under the ten-month contract, which started in January. Thomas Hale Boggs Jr., a partner at Patton, Boggs and the firm’s two senior counsels supervise work done on Ivanishvili’s behalf.
Ivanishvili’s contract with National Strategies includes lobbying, media relations, campaign consultancy and public outreach components with participation of several subcontractors.
On lobbying component, National Strategies has contracted two lobbying firms – Downey McGrath Group and Parry, Romani, DeConcini & Symms to provide Ivanishvili “help with development and management of relationships in Washington, DC.”
Ivanishvili pays USD 105,000 per month for the lobbying services provided by National Strategies; Downey McGrath Group and Parry, Romani, DeConcini & Symms.
According to its filing, National Strategies is providing outreach to the Congress and the Obama administration “to develop support for Client’s [Ivanishvili] campaign”, as well as support in recruiting “the most influential political and policy leaders to support free and fair elections in Georgia and the Client’s specific campaign.”
According to the contract, National Strategies also provides media campaign services, targeting “the national media community and key opinion leaders to complement the government relations strategy” through editorial board briefings; National Press Club briefings; exclusive interviews; media monitoring and response.
In addition, National Strategies is providing campaign and PR consultancy to Ivanishvili through its partner company K-global (both National Strategies and K-global are part of Interpoint Group).
For this service Ivanishvili is paying USD 65,000 per month.
According to its filing, in this component, National Strategies through K-global and in close cooperation with Ivanishvili’s campaign team is helping with creating a message platform, campaign talking points, drafting of opinion editorials, media training and preparing for interviews.
The service also includes running digital campaign, among them, through an English-language website called Citizens for Democracy in Georgia, which aims at raising “the issue of Georgia for influencers, policymakers and the media in the US.”
Another element of this service is promoting Ivanishvili through social media to “build an army of online supporters with significant digital reach and influence that can increase positive sentiment toward the goals of Client’s campaign.” Ivanishvili has a Twitter account run by his PR consultants in English with over 28,700 followers.
Producing a documentary film about Ivanishvili was also part of the service. A promo for this documentary has already been released.
K-global’s managing director, Thomas Frank, wrote on company’s blog on August 24 about this documentary: “Ivanishvili is relatively unknown outside of Georgia, which puts fear in the eyes of foreign leaders. Our goal has been to bring his story to life, in this case through a film introducing him to his country and to the world.”
National Strategies’ filing also include series of activities, which the company and its subcontractors carried out on behalf of the client from April 10 to May 10, 2012, involving management of Ivanishvili’s Twitter account and recruitment of its followers; drafting of three Congressional floor statements; drafting campaign talking points. The list of activities also includes “recruitment of high-level allies” – former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge and retired U.S. army general and military analyst General Barry McCaffrey.
Meanwhile, the Georgian government also retains services of number of U.S. lobbying firms. It’s Washington lobbying teams have been joined this year by two companies Prime Policy Group and Gephardt Government Affairs, which provide outreach to and advocacy before the Congress and the U.S. administration over free trade and election-related issues. The both firms have been contracted for six months with total worth of USD 330,000.
Apart of these new contracts, signed in June, the Georgian government also uses services of other Washington lobbying firms, including Podesta Group; Orion Strategies and of a consultant Gregory Maniatis.
The Georgian National Security Council has eleven-month contract worth USD 600,000 with Podesta Group and USD 360,000 worth one-year contract with consultant Gregory Maniatis.
In July the Georgian National Security Council extended contract with its long-time contractor Orion Strategies for next six months worth USD 270,000; the same amount was paid to the firm for its services in the first six months of 2012. Orion Strategies has subcontracted LynxDC, which starting from this August is providing the Georgian authorities “strategic advice and consulting services concerning Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations, including candidacy for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), support for strategic communications and public affairs efforts, communicating developments in Georgia to U.S. decision makers, and related activities in the United States and in Europe.”
The Georgian government’s spending for Washington lobbying firms for this year now make at least USD 1.83 million.