Here’s what FARA experts will be watching during the Barrack trial


With Megan R. Wilson and Daniel Lippman

WHAT FARA EXPERTS WILL BE LOOKING FOR IN THE BARRACK TRIAL: Ahead of this week’s trial on foreign agent charges for former Trump campaign adviser and real estate investor Tom Barrack and his former aide Matthew Grimes, PI spoke with around a half dozen FARA experts to see what they’ll be keeping an eye out for as the trial progresses, with the future use of DOJ’s relatively new tool for prosecuting foreign influence cases potentially on the line.

Caplin & Drysdale’s Matthew Sanderson, who co-chairs the American Bar Association’s FARA task force, said in an interview that he’ll be keeping an eye on how much prosecutors emphasize one of the lesser charges Barrack faces, lying to investigators, as a signal of how strong the government believes the foreign agent charges are. “If they’re really leaning heavily on [the false statements charge] and they end up spending a ton of time on that, I think that signifies some feeling of weakness,” he argued.

— FARA watchers added that they’ll be paying attention to the posture of U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan, an appointee of George W. Bush, throughout the trial. While that’s not unusual, they argued, Cogan’s attitude will be especially scrutinized after a federal judge in Virginia threw out a jury’s convictions in the last similar Section 951 case to go to trial, that of Michael Flynn business partner Bijan Rafiekian (another judge has since awarded Rafiekian a new trial).

— Before that point, though, “if the judge has a point of view, it can be reflected in the way that they treat objections and motions from the defense side,” noted Robert Kelner, who advises clients on FARA at Covington & Burling, adding that “jurors pick up on that sometimes.” Cogan already ruled prior to the trial that prosecutors could not introduce evidence like photos of Barrack’s luxury homes to demonstrate his vast wealth.

— Generally, FARA experts said they’re eager to see what evidence the government introduces in order to convince the jury that Barrack’s alleged actions in the U.S. were undertaken at the “direction or control” of the United Arab Emirates rather than being the activity of a well-connected businessman serving as a designated conduit between two world powers, as Barrack’s attorneys have sought to argue.

— That defense is made easier for Barrack because of the absence of any kind of formal contract, leaving prosecutors “to infer that from the facts and circumstances, which is a bit of a challenge for the government,” said Kelner, who said that aspect of ambiguity makes it a “winnable” case for Barrack.

— That could be where the false statement charge against Barrack comes into play, which a jury might see as “exacerbating … his complicity,” suggested David Laufman, a partner at Wiggin and Dana who previously oversaw FARA enforcement at DOJ.

— Others PI spoke to said they’ll be clocking the rhetoric used by both the prosecution and defense — whether, given Section 951’s roots as an espionage statute, the government will seek to brand Barrack as a “spy,” which might resonate with jurors but could serve to further stigmatize the legal and constitutionally protected work of FARA registrants, and whether the defense decides to push back on such labels.

Good afternoon and welcome to PI. Send lobbying tips: [email protected]. And be sure to follow me on Twitter: @caitlinoprysko.

EDELMAN REGISTERS AS SAUDI AGENT: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture has landed a major addition to the kingdom’s efforts to burnish its image in the U.S.: global PR titan Richard Edelman.

— Edelman, who’s served as the chief executive of his family’s namesake PR firm for nearly three decades, registered last week to work directly on the firm’s account for the culture ministry, according to documents filed with the Justice Department, in a rare move for such a high-ranking executive of such a massive agency.

— The firm registered to represent the Ministry of Culture earlier this summer on a nearly $800,000-per-year contract. Edelman pitched the kingdom a slew of Western celebrity-centric ideas to help Riyadh shed its reputation for human rights violations — including hosting “The Daily Show” from different locations in the country, or a Golden Globes-like awards show or musical festival, as our Hailey Fuchs reported.

— Richard Edelman has not registered to represent any of his firm’s half dozen other FARA clients, according to DOJ filings, which include several other Saudi clients in addition to a Canadian investment firm and economic development agency. Filings show that the last time Edelman himself was registered as a foreign agent was from 1991 to 2000, though the documents predate DOJ’s online database. Edelman did not respond to a request for comment on Richard Edelman’s involvement with the Ministry of Culture account.

GOP PLOTS INVESTIGATION OF CHAMBER IN MAJORITY: “Republicans plan to launch a variety of investigations into the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and many of its largest member corporations if they retake the majority in the House of Representatives this November,” The Intercept’s Ryan Grim reports.

— “The probes, said a GOP member of Congress and multiple Republican operatives who requested anonymity to discuss plans that have yet to be made public, will marry Republicans’ newly formed hostility to the Chamber with the party’s mission to undermine the growth of the ESG investment sector.”

— “The power of ESG — which stands for environmental, social, and governance — criteria to shape company valuations and behavior has become a major source of consternation among conservatives, who argue that companies that follow it are breaking with their fiduciary duty to maximize profits for investors” and who have zeroed in on the Chamber’s support for the principle, if not the Biden administration’s push to implement it.

CHAMBER JOINS TRADE GROUPS LOOKING TO NULLIFY CALI FAST FOOD LAW: The Chamber has joined a coalition led by the International Franchise Association and National Restaurant Association aiming to knock down California’s sweeping new fast food labor law, signed earlier this month.

— The trade groups on Friday announced a new coalition called Save Local Restaurants through which to channel their campaign for a referendum to overturn the law, which would create an industry advisory council to potentially overhaul wage and workplace standards within the fast food industry.

— The law, which groups like IFA fought hard to stave off, would also extend liability to corporations for violations at individual franchise stores. The new coalition contended in a statement that the bill would increase costs for franchisees, resulting in “skyrocketing costs and further layoffs” amid historic inflation.

— IFA and the restaurant association announced days after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill that they would seek a ballot referendum. Opponents have until December to gather more than 600,000 signatures to qualify for the 2024 ballot. Qualifying for the ballot would also block the law from going into effect on Jan. 1 until a vote is held.

— The new law is a major win for labor, which like business groups has pointed to the potential ripple effect such a framework could have across the country — albeit with contrasting attitudes. “Proponents of this legislation have indicated that similar efforts are headed for other states and industries, and now is the time to stop this bill before the harm spreads,” the coalition said.

Neil Bradley, the Chamber’s top lobbyist, raised a similar specter in a statement Friday. “If AB 257 stands, you can be sure that this will be the first of many efforts to impose on businesses of all kinds European-style sectoral bargaining complete with government-created boards dictating how small businesses operate and how employees work,” he argued, calling the law “bad for America.”

AHIP EXEC HEADS TO THE BLUES: The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association has snagged David Merritt away from America’s Health Insurance Plans to lead its Washington office, Megan reports. In the new role, he will oversee the association’s state and federal advocacy work and political affairs, in addition to managing industry partnerships and coalitions.

— Merritt has managed AHIP’s public affairs operation for the last six years, and serves as president of the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, the industry coalition that pushes back against single-payer health system proposals. He starts the new gig on Oct. 24.

— AHIP is also elevating its policy shop: After Merritt departs, AHIP spokesperson Kristine Grow will temporarily take his slot leading its public affairs and strategic initiatives as they search for his permanent replacement, announced CEO Matt Eyles in an internal email. The insurer’s key trade group is also revamping its policy shop and consolidating its leadership to Jeanette Thornton, a 16-year veteran of the association, Megan also reports.

— It’s a move that elevates the position to AHIP’s executive leadership team, which Eyles told staff is meant to “more fully integrate” the association’s policy work. Thornton is being promoted to executive vice president of policy and strategy, where she’ll oversee both AHIP’s government programs policy — which focuses on Medicare and Medicaid issues — and clinical policy teams.

SPOTTED at a 20th anniversary party for Signal Group at District Winery last week, per a PI tipster: Tirana, Albania, Mayor Erion Veliaj, Nick Pearson of Google, Antonia Passalacqua of Meta, Rosario Duran of the Association of Community College Trustees, Michael McQuerry of Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick’s (D-Fla.) office, Jacob Wilson of Rep. Jamie Raskin’s (D-Md.) office, Britton Burdick of Rep. Donald Norcross’ (D-N.J.) office, Kiara McGowan of Sen. Cory Booker’s (D-N.J.) office, Veronica Morales of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Adán Serna of Sen. Ben Ray Luján’s (D-N.M.) office, Danisha Craig of the Department of Energy and Heather Smith of Rep. William Timmons’ (R-S.C.) office.

Bob Rusbuldt will retire next year after more than 23 years as president and CEO of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America. He’ll be succeeded by Charles Symington, the group’s senior vice president for external, industry and government affairs.

Anya Coverman is now president and CEO of the Institute for Portfolio Alternatives. She previously was IPA’s senior vice president of government affairs and general counsel.

Benjamin Bryant is now communications director of American University’s Sine Institute of Policy and Politics. He most recently was communications director for Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) and is also a Jack Reed (D-R.I.) alum.

Katherine Duveneck has joined the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies as director of federal affairs. She most recently worked at Compass Point, leading its policy research, and is a Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) alum.

Jessica Ayala is now head of marketing at Offsyte. She most recently was head of consumer communications at NerdWallet.

Michael Pedone has rejoined Venable as a partner in the D.C. office. He most recently served as chief legal counsel to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.

Xiomara Santos is now director of government relations at the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. She previously was state campaigns manager at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Pascal Saint-Amans is joining the Brunswick Group as a partner. He previously was director of the Centre for Tax Policy and Administration at OECD.

Katy Milner is now a partner in the global regulatory & intellectual property, media & technology practice group for Hogan Lovells. She previously was a partner with Wiley Rein LLP.

Jonathan Walker is now vice president, diversity, equity and inclusion with the Association of American Publishers. He previously was senior assistant dean for student services, diversity, equity, and inclusion with George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.

Merith Basey has been named executive director of Patients For Affordable Drugs and Patients For Affordable Drugs Now. She most recently has been executive director of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines.

Annie (Humphrey) Woerpel will be director of federal advocacy at PhRMA. She most recently handled health care- and science-related issues for Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), and is a John Boozman alum.

Lacy Nelson is now director of communications for Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service. She most recently was communications director for Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), and is a Raphael Warnock, Doug Jones and Katie Hobbs alum.

Eddie Martin Jr. is now deputy executive director for racial equity at the Center for Law and Social Policy. He previously was senior director of equity and engagement at Health Care for the Homeless.

Karry La Violette is now senior vice president of advocacy and policy for the American Academy of Dermatology. She previously was senior vice president for government affairs and advocacy center director for the National Community Pharmacists Association.

Kaitlyn Hobbs Demers has returned to Covington as an associate in their congressional investigations practice. She most recently was special assistant to the president and chief of staff of the office of legislative affairs at the White House.

Jaime Varela is now federal affairs manager for health and human services for the state of Florida. He most recently was a legislative assistant for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

Robert Conner has been promoted to manager at Scott Circle Communications. He was previously an associate.

Marissa Currie is now executive director of strategic communications at the University of California, San Francisco. She most recently was manager of public affairs at Sutter Health.

Magaziner Victory Fund (Magaziner for Congress, Rhode Island Democratic State Committee)

Florida Freedom Action (PAC)
Missouri Truth PAC (Leadership PAC: Mark Alford)
Project Eliza (PAC)
Proud American Leaders Counsel (PAC)
Strategic Innovative Solutions Reform Group (PAC)


Finley Hyde & Associates, LLC: American Innovations
Finley Hyde & Associates, LLC: Metteck
Phoenix Global Organization Incorporated: Dickinson Financial Corporation
Tiber Creek Group: Emd Millipore
United Way Of America: United Way Of America

CORRECTION: An earlier version of Influence mischaracterized the final version of California’s FAST Recovery Act. It does not include joint liability for franchises.