Florida lobbyist Brian Ballard is facing possibly his biggest challenge yet, representing the Maldives, a nation embroiled in an internal crisis.
Last week, Ballard Partners inked a deal with the Indian Ocean island for a one-year contract worth $600,000 to help build support from policymakers and the U.S. government.
Ballard has been called on for his considerable talents to help the Maldives, as the popular tourist destination faces a national crisis which included the county’s leader declaring a 15-day state of emergency.
Maldives president Abdulla Yameen prompted international outrage when he cracked down on opponents, media, and its courts, arresting justices, including Supreme Court Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed.
On Jan. 29, Yameen’s opponents petitioned the Maldives Supreme Court to investigate allegations of corruption and human rights abuses, asking the court to remove him temporarily. They allege Yameen, who first assumed power in 2013, stole more than $1 million of state funds, including tourism revenue.
Yameen strongly denies the allegations, telling Al Jazeera that the opposition is “seeking to overthrow a legitimate government.” Earlier this month, the United Nations urged the Maldives to end its emergency declaration, calling Yameen’s actions “tantamount to an all-out assault on democracy.”
Ballard, an influential Republican fundraiser and lobbyist with a close relationship to President Donald Trump, will partner with the government-funded Maldives Marketing and PR Corp., to provide consulting and advocacy during the country’s crisis.
As chair of the Florida Trump Victory organization during the 2016 campaign, Ballard stopped representing Trump directly shortly after he won the White House. But soon after, Ballard expanded his Florida-based lobbyist shop to Washington.
Since then, Ballard Partners signed more than $3.5 million in deals with major Capitol Hill clients, including Amazon.com ($140,000); American Road & Transport Builders Association ($200,000); Reynolds American ($220,000) Geo Group ($250,000) U.S. Sugar ($300,000), the governments of Turkey ($1.5 million), the Dominican Republic and Halkbank – the Turkish state-owned bank.
Managing the Turkish interests for Ballard is former Democratic Congressman Robert Wexler, who joined the firm in 2016.
With more than 30 staffers from Florida to Washington, Ballard Partners has emerged as an essential stop for Republican politicians in both the Sunshine State and nationally. Ballard previously served as national finance chair for Mitt Romney’s 2012 and John McCain’s 2008 presidential bids.
“I was [Trump’s] lobbyist and anyone who knows me and knows my business knows that,” Ballard told POLITICO last year. “We’re not part of the crew that says, ‘Hey, let’s go to town and take advantage of the new administration.’ We came here with a different path, by clients who wanted us to come to D.C. I kind of came reluctantly and I get the criticism. It’s fair criticism. But we have a job to do.”