Top lobby shop sees bounty in Cuba

The Hill

By: Megan R. Wilson

Cuba is coming to K Street.

Akin Gump, Washington’s largest lobby firm by revenue, is launching a new practice dedicated to helping clients navigate the new policies related to improved diplomatic relations between the United States and the Caribbean island nation.

The firm is bringing in Anya Landau French, a specialist in international relations policy who served as an aide to former Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), to help build up the practice.

Scott Parven, who will head the new group, is one of the firm’s leading lobbyists on foreign governments.

Parven is a Democratic operative, bundling cash for Hillary Clinton’s presidential run, and counts the country of Japan, which in the midst of major trade talks with the United States, as one of his clients.

“Akin Gump has been advising clients seeking to enter the Cuban market for years, and the launch of this initiative is an outgrowth of that,” he said in a release.

The firm will not only be dispensing legal advice but will be courting lobbying clients who want to affect the future of legislation concerning Cuba, it said.

Earlier this year, President Obama announced that Cuba and the United States would reestablish diplomatic relations, seeking to strengthen a relationship that had been rocky for the last half-century.

What followed was an easing of some of the travel and trade policy restrictions, though others require congressional action to overturn.

“Our focus on Cuba harkens back to a time several decades back when the firm was positioned to help clients seeking entrance into another newly opened market — Russia,” Parven said in a release.

“Then, as now, the firm assembled a team of professionals with not only legal and business acumen, but also in-depth knowledge of relevant economic and diplomatic policy, to help clients navigate a new and swiftly changing environment,” he said.

Landau French comes from the nonprofit Center for Democracy in the Americas, where she served as a senior fellow. But she also made more than two dozen trips to Cuba since 2000, including during her time serving as an international trade adviser to the Senate Finance Committee.

It’s not the first Cuba-related K Street activity this year, and many firms are likely to follow suit.

Engage Cuba, an advocacy nonprofit launched earlier this year, hired the all-GOP lobbying firm Fierce Government Relations in April. Disclosure forms show the group is lobbying on the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act and legislation to fund the State Department.