Report: Putrajaya hires US firm for RM1.07 million to lobby Washington

(FMT) – The Daily Beast says the US firm, with strong ties to the Trump administration, will act on behalf of the Malaysian government and that the money comes from a Malaysian firm called The Godfrey Group Ltd.

The Malaysian government, it appears, has hired an American firm with close ties to the Trump administration to lobby on its behalf.

The firm, called 45 Group, received a cheque for US$250,000 (RM1.07 million) on May 9 from a Malaysian company called the Godfrey Group Ltd, according to a report in The Daily Beast.

The report noted that there were two issues that the Malaysian government needed resolving in the US: the charge that it engaged in unfair trade practices and Prime Minister Najib Razak being linked to the 1MDB scandal.

The 45 Group is headed by Healy Baumgardner-Nardone who used to work for the election campaign of now President Donald Trump. Although she quit the campaign towards the end, she reportedly maintains close ties to Trump’s inner circle.

Baumgardner-Nardone has been described by Bloomberg as a “20-year political operative who has worked on four presidential campaigns”.

The Daily Beast reported that the former Trump campaign aide last week registered to lobby on behalf of Malaysia and that “public records suggest she is flaunting her ties to the president”.

Quoting documents filed with the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) National Security Division, the report said Baumgardner-Nardone would provide “government relations and public relations services in support of the Government of Malaysia and strengthening the US-Malaysian relationship”.

It said the DoJ records revealed that the 45 Group was paid US$250,000 on May 9 for work that included US public and government relations services and “business consulting services for activities that are not governed” by laws requiring the disclosure of foreign government advocacy.

It said the cheque came from Godfrey Group Ltd and that public information on this company was sparse, adding that it was not immediately clear what exactly the company did or who was involved in it.

The Daily Beast said Baumgardner-Nardone did not respond to questions about her foreign agent lobbying work.

It said although Baumgardner-Nardone’s DoJ registration documents did not list specific issues on which she would work, Malaysia had sought to refute President Trump’s charge that it engaged in unfair trade practices.

Malaysia was one of more than a dozen nations targeted by a March executive order that directed the Department of Commerce to crack down on trade “cheaters”.

The Daily Beast noted that Prime Minister Najib Razak was also allegedly at the centre of a major corruption scandal involving 1Malaysia Development Bhd and that his stepson was one of the defendants in a DoJ lawsuit seeking to recover assets allegedly pilfered from the fund.

According to the report, since Trump took office, Najib has sought to publicly play up their ties.

It went on to quote a statement Najib made on Facebook following his first official communication with the president-elect in late November: “Great to reconnect with President-elect Trump following his outstanding win.”

It also noted that Najib had recounted how he and Trump played a round of golf when the former was in New York for a United Nations summit. They later took a photograph and Trump signed it, “To my favorite Prime Minister. Great win!”

The Daily Beast said Baumgardner-Nardone was not the first Trump aide to sign on as a foreign government lobbyist. Others who worked with the Trump campaign have also started consulting firms to cash in on their ties with the Trump administration.

It noted that Trump had, during the campaign, pledged to crack down on the influence of special interests on his administration – particularly foreign government interests.

However, it appears, that some of those who were close to him or worked for him were now trying to monetise those ties by acting as agents or consultants.