Rep. Frank Wolf, a longtime champion of religious freedom, authored the language for a restriction on who can represent foreign governments and other state-sponsored entities in countries deemed by the State Department to suppress religious freedom.
Huawei maintains it is an independent company and would not be affected by the proposed ban, which would restrict lobbying on behalf of Myanmar, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan — the eight nations the State Department classifies as “countries of particular concern” for suppressing religious freedom.
“It would have no relevance to Huawei, which is an independent employee-owned company,” said William Plummer, the company’s vice president for external affairs.
But on K Street, the legislation has been painted as an attempt to restrict the firm.
Lobbyists concede that the legislation could work to their advantage in the near term, but not surprisingly they said it would damage the industry in the long run, leading to more behind-the-scenes influence-peddling.
“It is unwarranted, excessive and unreasonable given the value that many of these foreign service officers and experts in foreign policy provide,” said Marc Ginsberg, former ambassador to Morocco, who now works for APCO Worldwide, but is not a registered lobbyist.
The Foreign Agents Registration Act requires lobbyists representing foreign agents to submit much more detailed information than those representing domestic interests. If former government officials are barred from registering, some might still serve as informal advisors to avoid disclosure, warned Howard Marlowe, president of the American League of Lobbyists.
“This amendment could push people into the shadows,” he said.
Correction: June 25, 3:30 p.m.
An earlier verison of this article mischaracterized former Rep. Jon Christensen’s relationship with ZTE Corp. He is an outside lobbyist.