India hires lobbyist to strengthen US ties
Cornerstone Government Affairs, a Washington DC firm with offices in multiple states, registered itself as a representative of the Republic of India on Wednesday with the US justice department under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, a requirement for Americans representing foreigners.Updated: Dec 08, 2019 06:21 IST
India has hired a second lobbying firm to negotiate the complex US decision-making system and to influence outcomes, filling a void left two years ago by a firm that had collapsed under scrutiny of a special counsel’s investigation into Russian meddling in American elections in 2016.
Cornerstone Government Affairs, a Washington DC firm with offices in multiple states, registered itself as a representative of the Republic of India on Wednesday with the US justice department under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, a requirement for Americans representing foreigners.
“Cornerstone’s representation will encompass providing strategic counsel, tactical planning and government relations assistance on policy matters before the US government, the US Congress, and select state governments, as well as academic institutions and think-tanks on behalf of the Republic of India,” the firm said in the filing as the description of its work for India.
It replaces Podesta Group, which shut down in 2017 after its work for the government of Ukraine came under scrutiny of Special Counsel Robert Muller in relation to the investigation into Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, Trump campaign officials. No charges were filed against Podesta Group.
But the company, which was founded by brothers Tony Podesta and John Podesta (who would later join the Obama White House and then head Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign), never recovered.
It had helped India with Democrats, given the company’s deep connections to the party.
BGR Government Affairs, the other lobbyist that had been on India’s rolls for a long time and helped with Republicans, will continue.
Podesta Group’s absence, or of any other firm to lobby Democrats, was not felt because Republicans were in charge of the White House and both chambers of US congress. Till November 2018, that is, when Democrats wrested control of the House in the mid-terms and turned DC into a two-party challenge.
India was still fine though, with a strong ally in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other senior leaders of the Democratic party.
But a bruising House hearing in October on the situation in Kashmir made it clear to Indians, according to people familiar with the developments, BGR alone would not be able to do the job. And there was this: the BGR’s assigned liaison for India, according to the people cited earlier, “was on holiday at the time”.