(WASHINGTON) — Despite calling for a ban on foreign lobbying, in which Americans lobby lawmakers and the public for foreign interests, Republican 2024 presidential hopeful Nikki Haley has raised tens of thousands of dollars in political donations from foreign lobbyists, disclosure reports show.
The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. under the Trump administration, Haley has recently been campaigning on her opposition to foreign lobbying, saying that embassies — and not private consultants or lobbyist agents — should represent foreign interests in the U.S.
Banning foreign lobbying has been part of her stump speech against aid to foreign countries, especially money she suggests is going to countries whose interests seem to be at odds with those of the United States.
“The first thing we have to do is stop giving money to countries that hate America,” Haley said during a town hall in Iowa in April.
“All these lobbyists that get paid from foreign entities to lobby Congress — outlaw all foreign lobbying whatsoever,” Haley said. “That’s what embassies are for.”
She then took it to Twitter the next day, writing, “Ban all foreign lobbying.”
Later in the month, she told a town hall in New Hampshire, “We will stop lobbyists, foreign lobbyists, in our country. That’s what embassies are for. We are not going to allow Americans to lobby for foreign countries. If an ambassador wants something, an ambassador can ask for it, but no more lobbying of Congress for foreign entities.”
But Haley’s rhetoric hasn’t stopped her from raising funds from supporters that are currently or formerly registered agents working for foreign entities. Under United States FARA laws, as part of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, individuals and entities acting as an agent of a foreign client are required to register with the Department of Justice.
One of Haley’s top fundraisers, Oswaldo Palomo, the managing director of D.C.-based consulting firm Chartwell Strategy Group, is himself a registered foreign agent.
Palomo so far this year has contributed a total of $6,600 to Haley’s joint fundraising committee, which raises money for her presidential campaign and her leadership PAC, Stand for America, according to campaign disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission.
According to FARA registration records, Palomo represents a number of foreign entities, including the government of Georgia in Eastern Europe, which he had worked for at least since 2018, and the Social Democratic Party of Romania, one of his more recent clients. Each of those clients pays him between $35,000 and $40,000 each month, and he has reported making contacts with hundreds of U.S. lawmakers in the course of his lobbying, FARA filings show.
Palomo also represents the Israeli cyberintelligence firm NSO Group, and the partially state-owned Chinese information technology company iFLYTEK, and has previously also worked for the government of Kosovo.
Palomo’s work has brought him hundreds of thousands of dollars from each of his foreign clients over the last six months, according to filings.
Despite Haley’s calls for a ban on foreign lobbying, Palomo has been a vocal supporter of the presidential hopeful, often touting her fundraising success.
Like Palomo, David Horton Wilkins, who was U.S. ambassador to Canada under President George W. Bush and is now a registered foreign agent, donated $6,600 to Haley’s joint fundraising committee, according to disclosure filings. Previously a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, the longtime Haley ally led her transition team when she was first elected the governor of South Carolina in 2010.
Now a partner at Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough, Wilkins has been a registered agent for the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia for more than a decade, meeting with numerous members of Congress and representing the provinces’ interests over the years, FARA records show.
Another Haley donor, Alexandra Scott Amorosi, whose LinkedIn profile says she worked at the public relations firm Ketchum, is a former registered foreign agent who between 2011 and 2014 represented the Russian Federation, as well as a Russian majority state-owned energy company called Gazprom and the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, providing media relations and communications services, according to foreign lobbying records. She has not renewed her foreign agent registration since 2014.
Haley’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment by ABC News.
Palomo declined to comment when contacted by ABC News, while Wilkins and Amorosi could not be reached for comment.
Although federal election laws prohibit foreign nationals from making donations to U.S. political campaigns, lobbyists who are U.S. citizens representing foreign interests are allowed to do so, and it’s a common practice especially at the federal level.
During the 2020 presidential election cycle, more than $33.5 million in federal political contributions came from foreign lobbyists, including at least $8.5 million from FARA-registered agents, and $25 million from lobbyists who were registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act while representing foreign clients with U.S. subsidiaries, according to FEC disclosure reports.
“It is not uncommon for presidential contenders to make promises rejecting campaign contributions from foreign lobbyists before ultimately accepting them — though some politicians have refunded money from foreign lobbyists after media backlash,” Anna Massoglia, editorial and investigations manager at the nonpartisan research group OpenSecrets.org, told ABC News.
Even if a candidate swears off campaign contributions directly from foreign lobbyists, those lobbyists may route funds to outside groups like nonprofits or super PACs supporting the candidates, Massoglia said.
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