LOBBYING TRACKER

PRESENTED BY

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DATAPOINTS

For government, royal court and PIF

$31.5 Million

LOBBYING SPEND (2018)

18

LOBBYING/PR FIRMS

106

REGISTERED AGENTS

AL-MONITOR
LOBBYING RANK

#4 (tie)

Greydiant Consulting
For Xcalibur Aerospace (20% owned by Public Investment Fund)
(for Xcalibur Aerospace)

Hired: Dec. 2019

NEW Domestic lobbying registration
NEW Q4 domestic lobbying registration

London-based drone company Xcalibur Aerospace has hired lobbyists to advocate for its fighter drones, according to a recent lobbying registration that has not been previously reported. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund owns a more than 20% stake in the company, triggering a reporting requirement of its involvement under the US domestic Lobbying Registration Act.
 
“Successful acquisition of this system by the Department of Defense could greatly and positively influence national Homeland Defense,” Xcalibur Aerospace lobbyist Blair Bozek wrote in a fourth-quarter lobbying filing for his Virginia-based Greydiant Consulting firm. Bozek, a former SR-71 Blackbird spy plane pilot, and Alvin Bready, the former deputy director of the US Missile Defense Agency, are the only registered lobbyists on the account. The firm was paid $140,000 in the fourth quarter of 2019.
 
“We are trying to help them in the US market, but they have been stymied in releasing information … because of the concerns the British [Ministry of Defense] has,” Bozek told Al-Monitor. Bozek said that the firm’s fourth quarter lobbying focused on talking to US Air Force officials to determine whether an appetite exists for Xcalibur’s drones. “It’s basically been in a holding pattern” because of the British Defense Ministry’s export restrictions, he said.

Edelman
(for SABIC)

Hired: Feb. 2020
Contract: $5.6 million (plus $1 million in expenses)

NEW Registered foreign agents
William Coughlan
Jessica Joy De Jesus
Lauren de Vlaming
Kaitlyn McBrayer
Conor Ryan
Jere Sullivan Jr.
Ana Paula de Assis Zenatti

Edelman has added seven foreign agents to its account with Saudi petrochemicals giant SABIC: Jere Sullivan Jr., the firm’s vice chairman of global public affairs; senior vice presidents Ana Paula de Assis Zenatti and Lauren de Vlaming; three other employees: Jessica Joy De Jesus, Kaitlyn McBrayer and Conor Ryan; and subcontractor William Coughlan. Edelman signed a $5.6 million contract with SABIC last month to promote this year’s B20, the G20’s business summit, in Riyadh. The B20 is still scheduled for Oct. 26-27 despite uncertainty over the coronavirus pandemic. Find out more details on Edelman’s hiring by reading our scoop.

Law Office of David B. Kultgen
(for Saudi Ministry of Energy / King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy)

Hired: Feb. 2018
2018 fees: $537,000

NEW Supplemental
(Sept. 1, 2019 – Feb. 29, 2020)

Fees and reimbursements: $110,000

The law office of former Saudi Aramco general counsel David B. Kultgen received $110,000 in fees and reimbursements from Saudi Arabia’s Energy Ministry in the six months through February for work on a possible civil nuclear agreement with the United States and other energy matters.

Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee
(for Salman al-Ansari)

Hired: Aug. 2017

NEW Supplemental (termination)
(Sept. 1, 2018 – Feb. 28, 2019)

The Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee, a pro-Riyadh lobby based in Washington, belatedly filed lobbying disclosure documents this month for the six-month period through February 2019. The documents indicate SAPRAC stopped working as an agent of its founder, Saudi businessman Salman al-Ansari, on Feb. 15, 2019. The organization received $165,000 from Ansari during that period for “operational costs.” SAPRAC was initially retained by Ansari to provide “public relations and communications on issues related to US-Middle Eastern affairs” and develop “opportunities for commercial, intellectual and cultural exchange between USA and Saudi Arabian entities.” SAPRAC remains registered to lobby for the Mecca-based Muslim World League, which receives funding from the Saudi government.

SAPRAC, Inc.
(in-house)

Registered: March 2016

NEW Q2 2019 domestic lobbying termination

The pro-Riyadh Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee terminated its domestic lobbying registration effective April 1, 2019. The organization, which is separately registered to lobby with the Department of Justice through the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), has not filed any FARA disclosures since October 2018, when it registered to work for the Mecca-based Muslim World League.

Qorvis Communications
(for King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center)

Hired: April 2019
2018 fees: $140,000

NEW Informational materials

On behalf of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre, Qorvis distributed a press release on Saudi Arabia’s donation of $10 million to the World Health Organization to combat the novel coronavirus.

LS2 Group
(for Saudi Arabia)

Hired: Nov. 2019
Contract: $126,500/month

NEW Informational materials

Iowa-based public affairs firm LS2 Group has been working with a direct descendant of US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to promote the 75th anniversary of US-Saudi relations.
 
Jim Tobin, a former GOP political operative in Maine who now works for the LS2 Group, sent H. Delano Roosevelt’s biography to undisclosed recipients March 4 to drum up media interest in covering the anniversary of the Feb. 14, 1945 meeting between President Roosevelt and King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud aboard the USS Quincy and the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Embassy in Washington hired the LS2 Group for $126,500 per month in November 2019.
 
“[Fellow lobbyist Dan Lederman] and I met with [Delano Roosevelt] yesterday and had a very productive meeting,” Tobin wrote. “He is willing to do interviews surrounding the 75th anniversary of his grandfather meeting with the King of Saudi Arabia.” The email goes on to ask recipients to use an attached biography “when reaching out to radio stations.”
 
Roosevelt has been a longtime supporter of Saudi Arabia. He is a co-founder of Friends of Saudi Arabia and board member of the National Council on US-Arab Relations. He has also served as president and CEO of the US-Saudi Arabian Business Council since December. In recent months, he has attended events commemorating the anniversary in Jeddah and Washington. He was the subject of a friendly Feb. 14 profile in Arab News. 

In addition, LS2 Group distributed a press release from South Dakota state representative Michael Saba bemoaning the defeat of his legislation to create an International Trade Office in the state. Saba, a Democrat, has arranged trade delegations to Saudi Arabia and Egypt in the coming months.

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman
(for Saudi Energy Ministry/the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy)

Hired: Feb. 2018
2018 fees: $1.9 million

NEW Supplemental
(Aug. 1, 2019 – Jan. 31, 2020)

Saudi Arabia’s Energy Ministry and the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy paid Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman more than $1.8 million for “legal services” in connection with a potential civil nuclear agreement with the United States.

Saudi Petroleum International
(for Saudi government and Saudi Aramco)

Hired: 1999
2018 expenditures: $107,000

NEW Supplemental
(Aug. 1, 2019 – Jan. 31, 2020)

Saudi Petroleum International spent $120,000 on a Saudi National Day reception held by Saudi Arabia’s UN mission at the five-star Pierre Hotel in New York on Sept. 16, 2019. The company’s clients are the Saudi government and Saudi Aramco.

Teneo Strategy
For Neom Company (owned by Public Investment Fund)

Hired: Nov. 2019

NEW Supplemental
(Aug. 1, 2019 – Jan. 31, 2020)

NEW Terminated foreign agent
Michael Osborne

Saudi Arabia’s NEOM Company paid Teneo Strategy, a firm that specializes in advising elite CEOs, $1,995,000 in the six-month period ending Jan. 31. The firm disclosed emails and calls with Vivian Nereim, a Bloomberg reporter who wrote a July 25 article about NEOM, a $500 billion futuristic megacity, and Rory Jones, a Wall Street Journal reporter who also wrote a July 25 article about the planned city. The firm reported spending more than $311,000 on “out-of-town travel” and wrote in its filing that it “engaged in outreach to members of the US business community and think tanks” but did not identify them.

Teneo Strategy consultant Michael Osborne stopped working for Saudi Arabia’s NEOM Company on Sept. 15. The CEO advisory group brought Osborne onto the account in July as part of its work on behalf of the $500 billion futuristic megacity.

    The Nickles Group
    Rose Law Group
    • Hired: 2019  
    • Latest Filing  
    • Registered agents

      • Evan Bolick
      • Thomas Galvin
      • Court ​Rich
        Co-founder, senior partner and director
      • Jordan ​Rose
        Co-founder and president

Khashoggi killing cripples $30 million Saudi lobbying blitz

Editor

Julian Pecquet

@JPecquet_ALM

jpecquet@al-monitor.com
bookmark

Julian Pecquet is the Editor of Special Projects for Al-Monitor, where he supervises the award-winning Lobbying Tracker as well as managing long-form stories. Before that he covered the US Congress for Al-Monitor. Prior to joining Al-Monitor, Pecquet led global affairs coverage for the political newspaper The Hill.

Posted: September 11, 2019

Saudi Arabia broke new records for lobbying spending last year only to suffer its worst reputational setback since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

All told, the Saudi government, royal court and public companies spent almost $32 million on lobbyists and public relations in 2018 to keep the pressure on regional foes Iran and Qatar and promote the country’s Vision 2030 of social reform and economic modernization. The highly publicized murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October has instead created a self-inflicted PR crisis that continues to plague bilateral relations a year later.

Under pressure from Congress, the Donald Trump administration slapped sanctions on 17 Saudi officials in November. Yemen war opponents seized on Riyadh’s diminished standing to try to limit arms sales and other US support for the Saudi-led coalition battling the Houthis. Meanwhile, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and top business leaders bailed on Riyadh’s October 2018 “Davos in the Desert” investment conference.

Paradoxically, Saudi Arabia’s massive lobbying army has atrophied at a time when it’s needed the most.

At least six firms abandoned Riyadh in the immediate aftermath of the Khashoggi scandal: BGR; the Harbour Group; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Gladstone Place Partners; and Glover Park and its subcontractor, CGCN. Together the firms accounted for $3 million in Saudi lobbying spending in 2018, or almost 10% of the total.

In another blow, the pro-Riyadh Arabia Foundation think tank shuttered its doors this summer after just two years in operation amid a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by its former communications director. At the same time, Saudi critics have ramped up their own efforts, with the advocacy group Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), a Khashoggi brainchild, hiring law firm Kilpatrick Townsend Stockton to lobby Congress on “advancing democracy in the Middle East” on behalf of the slain journalist’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz. (The firm reported $50,000 in payments in the first quarter of 2019.)

Despite the backlash, Saudi Arabia retains a hefty lobbying and public relations force in Washington, with 10 firms still working for various ministries. The influence campaign is dominated by Qorvis/MSLGroup, which has represented the kingdom since 2002 and brought in a whopping $17.7 million in the days and weeks after Khashoggi’s murder after last reporting fee payments in December 2016.

Riyadh’s strategic partnership with the United States against Iran — and its thirst for costly US weapons — have helped mitigate some of the fallout. Trump successfully vetoed congressional efforts to block arms sales, while giving the powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, a pass on sanctions.

Meanwhile, a monthslong lobbying push by the Ministry of Energy paid off earlier this year when US Energy Secretary Rick Perry approved transfers of nuclear power technology and assistance. The Saudi ministry hired King & Spalding, Pillsbury, Gowling WLG and the law offices of David B. Kultgen in early 2018 to help develop a commercial nuclear program by the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy. (The four firms were paid a combined $3.4 million last year.)

The Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) has sought to move beyond the Khashoggi controversy by stepping up its US influence operations. The $320 billion fund hired KARV Communications for $120,000 per month this January for the express purpose of creating distance between the PIF and the embattled crown prince. And NEOM, the PIF-owned company building a futuristic city in the Saudi desert, signed a $2.1 million contract with Teneo Strategy in June to build support for the mammoth project.

HIGHLIGHTS

Main lobbying firm:
Qorvis Communications

 

 

$31.5 million

Total lobbying and PR spending for 2018

 

 

WINS
  • Kushner intervenes to keep arms flowing
  • Aramco listing is a success
  • Saudis hire new PR firepower
LOSSES
  • Trump fails to respond to attack on oil installations
  • US sanctions ex-Saudi consul in Khashoggi murder
  • Congress seeks to end Yemen war

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