(for Ennahda Party)
Hired: Sept. 2014
2018 fees: $285,000
NEW Late supplemental
(Jan. 1, 2015 – June 30, 2015)
America to Africa Consulting
(for politician Olfa Terras-Rambourg)
Hired: May 2019
NEW Supplemental (termination)
(May 1, 2019 – Oct. 31, 2019)
America to Africa Consulting stopped working for Tunisian politician Olfa Terras-Rambourg on Oct. 31. The firm was paid $19,000 by Terras-Rambourg in the six-month period ending Oct. 31, and Jeannine Scott, the firm’s founder and principal, disclosed no lobbying in that time period.
Trip: Feb. 6, 2020 to Feb. 11, 2020
3 staffers; $8,200
Trip type: Privately sponsored
Sponsor: International Republican Institute
Dickens & Madson (Canada)
(for businessman and presidential candidate Nabil Karoui)
Hired: Aug. 2019
Contract: $1 million
A leading Tunisian presidential candidate imprisoned on graft charges has retained a lobbyist ahead of the second round of voting on Oct. 23. Media mogul Nabil Karoui hired Montreal-based Dickens and Madson (Canada) to lobby the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations in view of “attaining the presidency of the Republic of Tunisia.” Karoui was arrested on Aug. 23 on charges of money laundering and tax fraud, which he denies. The $1 million contract with Dickens and Madson is dated Aug. 19. In a filing with the Justice Department this week, the firm said it received an initial payment of $250,000 around Sept. 25. Karoui agreed to pay the remaining $750,000 by mid-October, according to the filing.
The contract calls for Dickens and Madson president Ari Ben-Menashe to “strive to arrange meetings” with US President Donald Trump and other senior US officials. The contract also calls on the firm to seek a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to obtain “material support for the push for the presidency.” Karoui placed second in the Sept. 15 election, behind conservative lawyer Kais Saied.
Ben-Menashe, a former Israeli intelligence operative and arms dealer, previously represented Libya’s Tobruk-based House of Representatives as well as Libyan strongman Khalifa Hifter. Earlier this year, the Canadian government asked the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to investigate Ben-Menashe for possible sanctions violations after he signed a $6 million contract with Sudan’s transitional military government.
Tunisia’s Islamists boost Washington outreach ahead of elections
Julian Pecquet is the Editor of Special Projects for Al-Monitor, where he supervises the award-winning Lobbying Tracker as well as managing long-form stories. Before that he covered the US Congress for Al-Monitor. Prior to joining Al-Monitor, Pecquet led global affairs coverage for the political newspaper The Hill.
Posted: September 11, 2019
Tunisia’s Islamist party boosted its US public relations spending almost three-fold last year in an effort to reassure skittish Washington policymakers about its democratic bona fides.
The Ennahda movement, the only Tunisian entity registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, paid Burson-Marsteller (now Burson Cohn & Wolfe, or BCW) almost $285,000 last year, up from $105,000 in 2017. The New York-based global PR firm, which was first hired in 2014, helped provide the party “support on media and stakeholder outreach in advance of upcoming elections,” according to its latest filing. Its list of contacts includes Jason Buntin, the director for Europe and Middle East Affairs at the Office of the US Trade Representative, and Robert Fairweather, the deputy associate director for international affairs at the Office of Management and Budget.
Ennahda (Renaissance in Arabic) was founded in 1981 by current leader Rached Ghannouchi and traces its roots to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian revolution. In recent years, however, it has sought to shed that image, joining a coalition government with its secular rival Nidaa Tounes in 2015 and rebranding itself as a right-leaning “Muslim Democrat” party the following year.
The party’s evolution has not gone unnoticed by the Counter Extremism Project, an influential nonprofit whose leaders include former Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and former homeland security adviser Frances Townsend. Despite the party’s evolution, the group continues to include Ghannouchi in its database of “terrorists and extremists,” however.
The party first hired Burson-Marsteller in 2014 ahead of the country’s first free legislative elections since independence in 1956, in which Ennahda came in second place behind Nidaa Tounes. The party has also benefited from close ties to the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, a Washington think tank, whose founder Radwan Masmoudi doubles as Ghannouchi’s adviser on US-Tunisian affairs.
The 2018 PR push came during and after long-delayed municipal elections in which Ennahda was able to capitalize on its decades-old network in both poorer urban neighborhoods and the disenfranchised countryside to come in first place, winning 132 out of 349 mayoral seats. Almost two-thirds of the elected female mayors — 42 out of 68, or 62% — came from Ennahda’s lists, including the first woman elected mayor of the capital, Tunis, Souad Abderrahim.
“Each of our female mayors ran inspiring campaigns, always epitomizing the party’s plurality and embrace of modern values,” Ghannouchi wrote in a July 2018 newsletter distributed by Burson-Marsteller. “It is for this reason that we have no doubt that they will all be effective and tireless representatives of Tunisian people of all political persuasions.”
The Ennahda leader also denounced recent acts of terrorism in the North African country. And he railed against an effort by opposition lawmakers to force the party’s dissolution over its alleged role in the murder of left-wing opposition politicians Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi in 2013.
“There is no truth in these claims and we completely refute them,” Ghannouchi wrote in a Nov. 26 statement distributed by Burson-Marsteller. “They are pure fabrications by a politicized self-appointed extra-judicial body that is undermining the legal process by continuously seeking to interfere, pressurize and question the integrity of the judiciary, in order to tarnish and demonize a political rival.”
In a show of trust in Tunisia’s democratic transition, the Donald Trump administration has agreed to give the country $335 million worth of financial aid over the next five years, the Tunisian Ministry of Development, Investment and International Cooperation announced late last month. The aid will be financed by the US Agency for International Development.
Main lobbying firm:
Total lobbying and PR spending by Ennahda party for 2018
- Senate passes partnership resolution
- State Department applauds election
- US lobbying scandal engulfs presidential race
- Parliament speaker Ghannouchi distrusted by US hawks
Will Tunis' first female mayor advocate for women’s rights?
- Trip: Feb. 6, 2020 to Feb. 11, 2020
3 staffers; $8,200
- Trip: Oct. 21, 2018 to Oct. 26, 2018
3 staffers; $9,700
- Trip: Oct. 1, 2019 to Oct. 8, 2019
2 staffers; $5,100