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Former Miami congressman registers as Qatari agent (Updated)

002 Joe Garcia DS


Former Rep. Joe Garcia, a Miami Democrat who served one term in Congress from 2013 to 2015, has registered as a foreign agent for the Qatari government.

According to a Justice Department registration notice, Garcia will engage in "strategic consulting and management services" on behalf of the Qatari government. Senior Qatari officials are meeting with President Donald Trump this week amid an ongoing diplomatic crisis.

Garcia isn't the only South Florida political figure doing work for the Qataris. Mike Hernandez, Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Gimenez's former communications director, and Danielle Alvarez, a former campaign staffer for Gov. Rick Scott, are also working the account for Mercury, a public strategy firm that employs a number of South Florida political campaign veterans.

Ashley Walker, a partner in Mercury's Florida office, said the trio helped organize a recent trip and meetings for Qatari government officials and businessmen in Florida. 

"I think that Qatar is looking at investing in Florida and our team helped set up some meetings so that they could meet the right folks about various opportunities," Walker said.

Walker, the Florida director for Barack Obama's 2012 campaign, is not involved in lobbying for Qatar.

Three of Qatar's neighbors on the Arabian Peninsula, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates, along with other Middle Eastern countries have cut diplomatic ties with the Qatari government after accusing their government of financing terrorism, cozying up to Iran and harboring fugitives. The freeze forced changes to airplane routes and severed Qatar’s only land border with Saudi Arabia.

The Qatari government has already hired former Florida lobbyist Brian Ballard's firm to advocate on its behalf and the New York Times reported that the effort has appeared to pay off, with Trump set to push for a settlement between Qatar and its neighbors.

Garcia joined Mercury in October 2017. In 2016, he lost to Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo in a bid to regain his former seat.