PR firm busts disclosure deadline while representing Burkina Faso

CD Global Strategies took months — instead of 10 days — to inform Justice Department of its work

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In June, Burkina Faso’s minister of human rights and civil promotion, in the midst of civil unrest in her West African nation, traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with members of Congress and other U.S. officials.

Helping arrange the meetings: CD Global Strategies, a D.C.-based public relations firm led by Calvin Dark, who touts his experience working on behalf of foreign political officials.    

The outreach on behalf of Burkina Faso fell squarely under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, an anti-propaganda law meant to make sure the public is informed about any foreign attempts to influence U.S. public opinion and policy.

The law explicitly requires those acting on behalf of foreign principals to register and disclose their activities to the U.S. Department of Justice within 10 days of agreeing to become a foreign agent and before doing any work.

But CD Global Strategies didn’t register until Nov. 11, months after its public relations work for Burkina Faso Minister Julie Prudence Nigna/Somda began, a review of FARA filings by the Center for Public Integrity found.

The disclosures came months after the firm had arranged meetings on Burkina Faso’s behalf with Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations; Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee; and Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., a member of Senate Foreign Relations.

Burkina Faso officials also met with representatives from USAID and the Millennium Challenge Corporation to discuss the nation's human rights efforts. Both entities fund programs in Burkina Faso.

Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, is home to a strategically important base for Pentagon surveillance missions. The country, long viewed as stable, has recently been home to upheaval. In October, demonstrators — some violent — forced the longtime president to flee the country, leaving it under military rule. A transitional government took power Tuesday.

CD Global Strategies also on Nov. 11 first disclosed work for the West African nation of Togo under an agreement dated Sept. 19, nearly two months earlier.

CD Global Strategies reported earning $30,000 for the Burkina Faso work and $100,000 for assisting Togo.

Asked about the belated filings, Dark said, “Everything is fine from our end with the Justice Department. We went through our counsel and filed it and provided all the necessary documents and information.”

Dark said the firm’s work with Burkina Faso has ended, but the relationship with Togo is ongoing.

The embassy of Burkina Faso did not respond to a request for comment regarding the filings. A representative from the embassy of Togo said the embassy had no immediate comment and referred questions back to CD Global Strategies.

In an emailed statement, Marc Raimondi, a spokesman for the Department of Justice, said the agency has a long-standing policy “to decline comment on registrations other than to provide what is currently available on the FARA public website,” but that generally speaking, “the FARA Unit works to ensure registrants meet their obligations to register under FARA. We review all registrations we receive and if there is something that warrants action, the FARA unit takes appropriate action.”

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