Akin Gump, the nation’s largest lobby firm, is looking to open a business unit in Cuba.
First noted in The Washington Post, the move is the latest in expanding business and consumer operations after President Obama announced in December that the United States would begin normalized diplomatic relations with the Caribbean island nation.
Among the industries looking to branch out to Cuba are telecommunications, hospitality, agriculture and healthcare – as well as advocacy and business groups.
Many interests have been pressuring Congress to loosen restrictions on travel and sales of telecommunications and agriculture, as well as reset rules for ship travel between the two former enemies.
According to Post lobbying reporter Catherine Ho, Akin’s new division – which hired Anya Landau French as a senior adviser on Cuba — will advise lobbying and legal strategies as businesses look to enter the Cuban market.
Democratic lobbyist Scott Parven will lead the new program.
With $35.6 million in lobbying fee revenue for 2014, Akin Gump is the largest lobby in the U.S.
Ho notes that among Parven’s lobbying clients are Samsung and Chevron, and he also serves as a top bundler for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Parven raised $24,700 for Clinton so far in 2015.
As editor of The Havana Note, Landau French blogs about U.S.-Cuba relations, and has called for ending the embargo. She is a former staffer for ex-Sen. Max Baucus, advising the Montana Democrat on international trade issues.
“Given the president’s bold actions on Cuba, we’re hearing a lot of excitement at the CEO and [general counsel] level from our clients,” Parven told The Post in a recent interview. “They are very excited and progressive about this, seeing it as a tremendous business opportunity. They’re seeing the long game. Companies want to make sure they’re doing everything right to enter the market the right way and establishing the right reputation.”
As the administration continues to push for formal relations with Cuba, the interest of lobbyists also increased.
However, Congress must officially lift sanctions against Cuba and Republicans strongly oppose the idea. While Senate appropriators approved measures to roll back a few restrictions, it is doubtful any meaningful changes will pass both chambers in the near future.