LOBBYING TRACKER

PRESENTED BY

DATAPOINTS

For government, royal court and PIF

$31.5 Million

LOBBYING SPEND (2018)

19

LOBBYING/PR FIRMS

107

REGISTERED AGENTS

AL-MONITOR
LOBBYING RANK

#8 (tie)

Hogan Lovells
(for Saudi Arabia)

Hired: 2007
2018 fees: $2.4 million

NEW Informational materials

On May 13, former Sen. Norm Coleman, a Republican who represented Minnesota, sent a statement to 33 congressional staffers on how his Hogan Lovells client, Saudi Arabia, cut oil production.

Sonoran Policy Group
(for Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud)

Hired: May 2020
Contract: $2 million/six months

NEW Contract

A lobbying firm that has touted its connections to the Donald Trump administration has been hired to advocate for the release of an imprisoned Saudi prince. Sonoran Policy Group and CEO Christian Bourge will “advocate for the release from Saudi Arabia detention of Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud with the governments of the United States, United Kingdom, France, and the European Union based in Brussels, Belgium,” according to a lobbying filing. Hisham Mughal, who hired Sonoran, is described in the filing as a Paris-based Pakistani “boutique and garment factory proprietor” and former associate of the prince, who has been imprisoned since January 2018. The six-month, $2 million contract with Sonoran was effective May 15. The New York Times first reported on the contract. 

Sonoran Policy Group was founded by Robert Stryk, an unpaid West Coast adviser for US President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. Its clients have included Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry, which Sonoran signed a contract with shortly before a palace coup ousted then-Interior Minister and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. Sonoran pocketed $5.4 million from that contract.

LS2 Group
(for Saudi Arabia)

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

NEW Informational materials

Dan Lederman, the chairman of the South Dakota Republican Party who is a registered foreign agent for Saudi Arabia, emailed Libby Goldstein Parker, the executive director of Minnesota Jewish engagement organization Jewfolk, and Steve Hunegs, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, and attached tweets by Saudi Ambassador to the US Reema bint Bandar giving best wishes for Rosh Hashana and Passover; information on a visit by an Israeli rabbi to Riyadh; and a Bloomberg article on a Saudi television series that sparked a debate in the kingdom about Israeli-Saudi ties. Lederman also emailed radio hosts at a North Dakota radio station with materials ahead of a May 9 interview with Saudi Embassy spokesman Fahad Nazer.

Qorvis Communications
(for Saudi Arabia)

Hired: 2001
2018 fees: $17.7 million

NEW Supplemental
(Oct. 1, 2019 – March 31, 2020)

NEW Registered foreign agents
Joycelyn Biggs
Senan Enad
Alvin Jordan Jr.
Philippa Levenberg
Sophia Mestas

NEW Terminated foreign agents
Marcia Christoff Kurapovna
Jonathan Ewing
Julia Ann Ripley
Oubai Shahbandar
Jared Shapiro

Saudi Arabia paid Qorvis $8.6 million in the six-month period ending March 31. For Saudi Arabia, the firm disclosed communicating with various news outlets and meeting with a Bloomberg News representative Feb. 27; the firm also disclosed meeting with various groups regarding the Saudi Youth Exchange. Qorvis also “engaged with” the National Mining Association regarding Vision 2030, the kingdom’s plan to reduce its dependence on oil and diversify its economy.

Meanwhile, five people — Joycelyn Biggs, Vice President Philippa Levenberg, Senan Enad, Alvin Jordan Jr. and Sophia Mestas — have registered to work on Qorvis' Saudi Arabia account. And three consultants working on Qorvis’ Saudi Arabia account — Oubai Shahbandar, Julia Ann Ripley and Marcia Christoff Kurapovna — stopped working on the account on Oct. 1, Jan. 31 and March 15, respectively. Jonathan Ewing, an account supervisor, stopped working for Qorvis — and Saudi Arabia — on Nov. 1. Jared Shapiro, another account supervisor, stopped working for Qorvis and Saudi Arabia on Feb. 7. Nikhita Godbole, a fellow at Qorvis, stopped working for the firm and Saudi Arabia Jan. 17.

Qorvis Communications
(for Muslim World League)

Hired: March 2019
2018 fees: $140,000

NEW Supplemental
(Oct. 1, 2019 – March 31, 2020)

NEW Registered foreign agents
Senan Enad
Alvin Jordan Jr.
Paris Kissel
Philippa Levenberg
Sophia Mestas

NEW Terminated foreign agents

The Mecca-based Muslim World League, which receives funding from the Saudi government, paid Qorvis $443,000 in the six-month period ending March 31. For the Muslim World League, Qorvis communicated with various news outlets and congressional outlets, while also reaching out to six think tanks “regarding Interfaith cooperation” and “various other think tanks regarding magazines.”

Five people — Senan Enad, Alvin Jordan Jr., Paris Kissel, vice president Philippa Levenberg and Sophia Mestas — have registered to work on Qorvis' account with the Muslim World League. Two account supervisors — Jonathan Ewing and Jared Shapiro — stopped working for Qorvis and the Muslim World League on Nov. 1 and Feb. 7, respectively.

Summit Information Services
LS2 Group subcontractor
(for Saudi Arabia)

Hired: Nov. 2019
Contract: $120,000/year

NEW Informational materials

Karen Mason, who is registered to work on Colorado-based Summit Information Services’ Saudi Arabia account, sent materials to Jimmy Sengenberger on April 22 ahead of a planned interview with Saudi Arabian Embassy spokesman Fahad Nazer. Nazer appeared on Sensenberger’s podcast, “Jimmy at the Crossroads,” on April 23 (the interview was replayed on Sengenberger’s Colorado radio show). Sengenberger, who describes himself as a “conservative millennial,” is president of the nonprofit Liberty Day Institute.

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

Hired: April 2019
2018 fees: $140,000

NEW Supplemental
(Oct. 1, 2019 – March 31, 2020)

NEW Registered foreign agents
Senan Enad
Alvin Jordan Jr.

NEW Terminated foreign agent

The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center paid Qorvis $119,000 in the six-month period ending March 31. For the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, Qorvis communicated with various news outlets. The firm also “engaged with the Washington Institute and SHE Global regarding humanitarian aid.”

Account supervisor Jared Shapiro stopped working for Qorvis and the relief center Feb. 7. And Senan Enad and Alvin Jordan Jr. have started working on the account.

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck
(for Saudi Arabia)

Hired: Sept. 2016
2018 fees: $1.8 million

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

NEW Terminated foreign agent

Saudi Arabia paid Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck $450,000 in the six-month period ending Feb. 29. During that time, lobbyists from the firm disclosed meeting with just two congressional staffers for Riyadh: Jeff Lomonaco, the chief of staff for Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn. (Feb. 4); and Matt Sullivan, the chief counsel on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Feb. 20). On Feb. 3, Martha Burke, the Brownstein lobbyist who met with Lomonaco, contributed $200 to Smith’s campaign committee (on Feb. 3 and Feb. 4, two additional Brownstein lobbyists each contributed $250 to Smith’s campaign committee).

Former Associate Deputy Attorney General William Moschella stopped lobbying for Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck client Saudi Arabia on Jan. 1.

King & Spalding
(for Saudi energy ministry / K.A.CARE)

Hired: Feb. 2018
2018 fees: $948,000

NEW Terminated foreign agent

Daniel Crosby, a partner at King and Spalding who manages the firm’s Geneva office, has stopped working as a foreign agent on the firm’s account with Saudi Arabia’s Energy Ministry and King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy. Crosby had been advising them on a 123 civil nuclear agreement and related matters.

Qorvis
(for Saudi Human Rights Commission)

Hired: March 2020

NEW Contract

Qorvis has signed a one-year, $690,000 contract with Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights Commission. The contract, which was effective March 1, calls for Qorvis to provide “services for media training, strategic communications, media relations, editorial services, outreach, and research (including polling).” The firm has separate contracts with Saudi Arabia’s embassy, the Mecca-based Muslim World League, the Saudi government-funded King Salman Humanitarian Aid & Relief Center and the embassy of Yemen, which is allied with Riyadh.

    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
    • 2019 fees: $0

Khashoggi killing cripples $30 million Saudi lobbying blitz

Editor

Julian Pecquet

@JPecquet_ALM

jpecquet@al-monitor.com
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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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