Huawei Technologies, the Chinese wireless equipment maker that spent tens of millions of dollars trying to win over US policymakers only to eventually be blacklisted, has shut down its in-house lobbying operations in Washington.
Huawei’s last two registered lobbyists there — Jeff Hogg and Donald Morrissey — left in recent months, it has been established. The Shenzhen, China-based firm didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.
The lobbyists’ recent departures follow an exodus of staff from Huawei’s US operations, and marks a quiet end to the company’s costly, yearslong effort to maintain presence in the North American market. The firm reached its peak by supplying small mobile firms across the US even as major carriers shunned it. Rising tensions with Beijing eventually all but banned it.
More than a decade ago, Washington officials began warning of Huawei’s ability to embed spying capabilities in its gear, which was present in thousands of cell towers and other network equipment in the US. The company pushed back on those claims, saying its products posed no threat, but American regulators by 2022 had barred the company from selling products in the US and moved to starve it of access to cutting-edge technology.
At its height, Huawei had nine lobbying firms on its payroll and a small army of public relations representatives. Executives were known to regularly arrange briefings with congressional offices and major newsrooms. The company spent more than US$13-million lobbying in the past 10 years, according to federal filings.
In a single quarter of 2019, Huawei’s federal lobbying spending totalled $1.8-million, a six-fold increase from the previous year. It spent double that, $3.6-million, on lobbying in the US in 2021, according to the filings. Some of that went to glitzy parties populated by high-profile hired guns including veteran Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta, who made $1-million from Huawei that year, according to disclosures with the US senate. Podesta said in a filing that his work for Huawei ended on 30 December 2022.
With a ban firmly in place and its US business scant, Huawei has little reason to keep burning through lobbying cash in Washington. “The US market isn’t a likely place for a breakthrough for Huawei in the near future,” said Chris Pereira, a former Huawei PR executive and founder of the consultancy iMpact.
Morrissey, who lobbied for both Huawei and Futurewei, confirmed in a LinkedIn message that he left the company in December. He said he’s now the senior director of government affairs at the battery technology company Gotion. Hogg, who had served as Huawei’s head of government relations since 2020, left the company in November, according to his LinkedIn profile. He didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The company has lost outside lobbying firms as well. Imperium Global Advisors and LeMunyon Group terminated their contracts with Futurewei, Huawei’s US-based research arm, in November 2023, according to filings with the senate. And Squire Patton Boggs, a global law firm, has not reported lobbying activity to congress on Futurewei’s behalf since the beginning of 2023. Former US representative Lee Terry, Republican of Nebraska, terminated his lobbying contract with Huawei at the end of 2022, according to filings with the senate.
By October, the only firm registered as working on Huawei’s behalf was Sidley Austin, which didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Huawei itself has filed its own notice that it was terminating lobbying efforts at the Capitol. The company has also ceased operations at offices in Plano, Texas, Trey Smith, executive vice president at CBRE, a real estate services firm that handles leases for the building, said in an e-mail.
In response to Huawei’s ban, China’s government has accused the US of abusing state power to hobble Chinese companies. Huawei in recent months offered its own de facto response, producing a new phone using highly advanced technology the US has been trying to keep out of China’s hands. The company says revenue surged 9% in 2023, in part thanks to the new phone. — Todd Shields and Emily Birnbaum, with Patricia Hurtado, (c) 2024 Bloomberg LP
AI-generated summary of this article
- The article reports that Huawei has stopped lobbying the US government after years of unsuccessful attempts to reverse the sanctions imposed on its business.
- It cites Huawei’s filings with the US congress and quotes its spokesman on the company’s decision to focus on other markets.