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Georgia Extends Lobbying Contract With Trump-Tied Firm Amid Congressional Frustration Over Democracy


The Georgian government's reactions to protests have come under international scrutiny. (file photo)

WASHINGTON -- The Georgian government has renewed a lobbying contract with a U.S. firm with ties to President Donald Trump amid growing Congressional concern over the South Caucasian country’s commitment to democracy.

Chartwell Strategy Group, founded by David Tamasi -- who served as finance chair for the Trump Victory Fund -- will lobby the White House and Congress on behalf of Georgia, according to Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) filings published by the Justice Department on January 31.

Tamasi will "engage Administration officials on the need to support greater U.S. foreign direct investment into Georgia and to grow bilateral trade relations" as well as secure an increase in U.S. foreign security assistance, the filing said.

Georgia hired Chartwell last year for $65,000 a month with the contract expiring on December 31.

The renewed lobbying effort comes as U.S. lawmakers express frustration over what they call "backsliding" on Georgia’s commitments to build democratic institutions in the country, a development that could potentially result in the United States reducing support.

In a letter to Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia that was released on January 29, Senator Jim Risch (Republican-Idaho) and Jeanne Shaheen (Democrat-New Hampshire) wrote that they were "increasingly concerned" about the state of democracy and governance in the country.

Risch is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, while Shaheen is the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation.

The two Senators hinted at a cut in financial and security assistance if the country doesn’t change its current course, saying, "We are motivated to support Georgia's economic and political development only as long as we can rely on Georgia to be a stable, trustworthy, and democratic partner in this effort."

Republican Congressmen Adam Kinzinger and Michael McCaul and Democrats Gerald Connolly and Eliot Engel wrote a letter to Georgian officials dated January 21 that said it was "unacceptable" that the ruling Georgian Dream party had funded "an extensive network of accounts" on Facebook "apparently spreading anti-democratic, anti-Western sentiments" just a year before parliamentary elections.

Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani will travel to Washington next week to meet with U.S. officials. The Georgian Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for his schedule.

Georgia -- which has expressed a desire to join the European Union and NATO -- violently dispersed citizens taking part in several mass protests in the capital of Tbilisi over the summer.

The protesters complained that Georgia's electoral system unfairly favors the ruling Georgian Dream party and have called for a proportional system.

The United States and the European Union have called on the Georgian government, political parties, and civil society to engage in a "calm and respectful dialogue."

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