Brian Ballard announced Thursday that the lobbying firm is dropping a client accused of having connections to brutal Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Ballard Partners added Dubai-based trading company ASM International General Trading LLC to its client roster on March 15 and an analysis of the company published Wednesday by the The Daily Beast indicated it was affiliated with Samer Foz, who is an ally of Assad.
The analysis used several news reports, files leaked in the Panama Papers and website registration information as evidence showing Foz was a part owner of ASM. When The Daily Beast reached out to Ballard, he said he wasn’t aware of the link, but said he would cut ties if there was one.
“We’re not the CIA, but if it were to turn out that there was any connection at all, we would withdraw from our representation of the Dubai trading company,” he said Wednesday, adding that his firm represents anti-Assad regime client Citizens for a Safe and Secure America.
On Thursday he did just that, adding that the firm will take steps to better vet prospective clients in the future.
“Yesterday a news report questioned our firm’s representation of ASM International General Trading LLC (“ASM”), based upon allegations regarding a minority owner of ASM. The news report also noted that our firm represents Citizens for a Safe and Secure America, whose objective is to promote America’s national security interests through support of policies that lead to a free and democratic Syria,” Ballard said Thursday.
“Our firm is fully dedicated to helping Citizens for a Safe and Secure America achieve this important objective, and will not allow this recent news report to distract attention and focus away from that mission. For that reason, we have decided to terminate our representation of ASM, effective today. As our firm’s Washington presence continues to grow in size, we will intensify our review of prospective clients to minimize the possibility of distractions in the future.”
The release also included a statement from Citizens for a Safe and Secure America President Rim Albezem, who was complimentary of the both the firm’s services and its decision to drop ASM.
“I am more than fully confident in the firm’s efforts to help secure America’s safety and security through promotion of free and fully democratic elections in Syria,” Albezem said. “Furthermore, I am very pleased that they will continue to fight on behalf of our organization’s sacrosanct mission, and have terminated their representation with ASM in order to eliminate any distraction from our shared goals for both America and Syria.”
The Daily Beast reported on Ballard Partners jettisoning ASM shortly after the statement was released.
Ballard chaired the Trump Victory organization in Florida during the 2016 presidential campaign and is seen as one of the few lobbyists close to President Donald Trump. Earlier this month, Trump ordered U.S. forces to join French and British allies in bombing chemical weapons facilities controlled by the Assad regime after chemical weapons were used on Syrian civilians.
Ballard’s ties to Trump led him to expand his lobbying firm to Washington shortly after Trump’s inauguration, and it has quickly found success. Since the expansion, Ballard Partners has added several major clients, including the governments of Turkey, the Dominican Republic, Qatar and the Maldives.
Ballard Partners topped all Florida firms in lobbying compensation last year, bringing in an average of $4 million in fees each quarter for its legislative and executive work at the state level.