Ant Group – a payment platform used to implement “vaccine passports” and a “social credit” system in China – has retained a number of American lobbying firms, including some with ties to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former President Barack Obama, and failed presidential candidate Senator Mitt Romney.
Ant Group is an offshoot of the Chinese company Alibaba, previously flagged by the U.S. State Department as a “tool” of the Chinese Communist Party and crucial to the regime’s build-up of “technology-facilitated surveillance and social control.” Ant Group also owns AliPay, a digital payment platform used by Beijing to institute vaccine passports, which have been used to render citizens unable to leave their houses and forced into quarantine.
Ant Group is a key component of China’s broader “social credit” system, sharing the data it collects on users’ spending habits and online activity with Chinese Communist Party regulators.
Social credit systems have raised concern in the West, with many fearing the weaponization of government and business surveillance to restrict individuals’ access to the economy and services based on specific behaviors – or even ideologies.
Despite these fears, several American lobbyists are working on behalf of Ant Group, appearing to help broaden the company’s operations and reach inside of the U.S.
Throughout 2021 and 2022, Ant Group hired four external lobbying and public affairs firms to help with objectives including “outreach regarding corporate profile and operations of Ant Group and its subsidiary Alipay US.”
The OB-C Group has been representing Ant Group since January 1st, 2022 on “matters regarding regulatory issues for ANT Group and its subsidiaries.”
Among the firm’s consultants working for Ant Group is Larry O’Brien, who has been described by the Washington Post as a “major Democratic operative.”
“Mr. O’Brien has been a long-standing participant in the House Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s (DCCC) maximum level individual donor program, the Speaker’s Cabinet, and in the “Pelosi Team 100” program. Over a period of two decades, Mr. O’Brien has had an extensive degree of involvement and interaction with the House Democratic leadership, with myriad Democratic members across a wide array of House committees and with the leadership of the DCCC,” explains his professional bio.
He has also worked “at the most elevated participation level with the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC),” charging its “premier individual donor group, the Legacy Circle, since the inception of the program in 2006.”
“He was designated a “Lifetime Member” of the Legacy Circle in 2014. In addition, he is the recipient of what the DSCC describes as one of the highest honors it can bestow, an award of lifetime membership in its “Majority Trust” program. In the award letter to Mr. O’Brien, Senator Schumer, then Chair of the DSCC, stated, “I can’t think of a more qualified Democrat to receive this honor,” his bio continues.
Another Ant Group lobbyist on behalf of the OB-C Group, Thomas J. Keating, served in the House of Representatives in the Office of Sergeant at Arms for over 13 years, with his most recent role as Director of Police Services.
Several other establishment D.C. figures – including advisors to the campaigns of George H.W. Bush and Mitt Romney – are also working on behalf of Ant Group according to the OB-C Group’s lobbying registration. For three months of work, the firm received a retainer of $60,000.
Lobbying firm Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld is also currently representing Ant Group, beginning its work for the Chinese company on January 27th, 2022.
In addition to Democratic congressional staffers and advisors to George W. Bush, Ed Pagano, who served as Senate Liaison and Deputy Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs in the Obama administration, is also working on behalf of AliPay.
Another government affairs firm – Rich Feuer Anderson – began lobbying for AliPay on January 1st, 2022, conducting “outreach regarding corporate profile and operations of Ant Group and its subsidiary Alipay US.”
Among the consultants working on behalf of Rich Feuer Anderson are alumni of the U.S. Treasury Department, Senate finance committees, and Democratic officials.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made much of her trip to Asia this week, though upon landing in Singapore, appeared to intentionally leave out references to China or Taiwan.