But Michelle Gavin, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former US ambassador to Botswana, which borders Zimbabwe, said that while Zimbabwe’s new government had undertaken some reforms since Mugabe was ousted, the country is still plagued by corruption and human rights abuses.
“What we’re seeing on the ground I don’t think gives many observers any confidence there is genuine respect for the rule of law,” she said.
Bruce Wharton, a former US ambassador to Zimbabwe, tweeted last week that the country’s decision to hire Ballard was a “tragic waste of public funds”.
Zimbabwe has tried to retain lobbyists with presidential connections before. In 2008, Zimbabwean government officials agreed to hire two men who claimed have connections to Obama, who were later convicted of illegally attempting to lobby to lift US sanctions on the country.
Lobbyists are sometimes eager to work for foreign governments because doing so is often more lucrative than lobbying for domestic clients.
Ballard Partners has brought in more than $7.2 million lobbying for foreign interests since Trump’s inauguration, according to disclosure filings, representing a large chunk of the firm’s business.
By comparison, the firm has earned roughly $28 million lobbying for domestic clients at the federal level since setting up shop in Washington in January 2017, according to the firm.
Avenue Strategies, a lobbying shop started by Trump campaign veterans Corey Lewandowski and Barry Bennett after the 2016 election, has raked in $3.3 million from foreign interests. (Lewandowski never did any foreign lobbying and left the firm in 2017, before it signed any foreign clients.)
Chartwell Strategy Group, a lobbying firm started by Dave Tamasi, another former Trump fundraiser, brought in $740 000 lobbying for the governments of Georgia and Kosovo last year, according to the firm.
And Sonoran Policy Group, which brought on two Trump campaign veterans after the 2016 election, has earned more than $9 million from foreign interests, $5.4 million of it from a single contract with Saudi Arabia’s government.
Lobbyists with Trump ties have also commanded sizable fees representing companies in need of help abroad.
ZTE, for instance, the Chinese telecommunications company that successfully pressed the Trump administration last year for leniency after it was discovered to be illegally selling to Iran and North Korea, hired four Trump campaign veterans at three different firms to advance its interests in Washington: Bryan Lanza, Rick Wiley, Doug Davenport and Dave Urban. (Lanza stopped lobbying for the company last year.)
The company paid Urban’s firm $230 000 for him to lobby the Executive Office of the President and the Senate for a little more than a month last year, according to a disclosure filing.
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