LOBBYING TRACKER

PRESENTED BY

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DATAPOINTS

For government, royal court and PIF

$31.5 Million

LOBBYING SPEND (2018)

17

LOBBYING/PR FIRMS

104

REGISTERED AGENTS

AL-MONITOR
LOBBYING RANK

#4 (tie)

Aramco Affiliated Services Company
(for Saudi Aramco and Saudi government)

Registered: Nov. 2016
2018 expenditures: $5.7 million

NEW Registered foreign agent
Mohammad Alshammari

Saudi businessman Mohammad Alshammari has registered as a foreign agent for Saudi Arabia and Saudi Aramco via Aramco Affiliated Services Company.

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

Hired: Nov. 2019

NEW Contract

Executive advisory firm Teneo has landed a second contract with the futuristic Saudi city that aims to revolutionize tourism and entertainment with an artificial moon and robot dinosaurs. The company signed a six-month, $900,000 contract with Neom City on Jan. 12. The new contract, which was effective Nov. 1, calls for Teneo to manage Neom’s communications department. Six Teneo employees are listed as key personnel on the account: Padraic Riley, Laurence Cook, Tim Falconer, Keri Sutherland, Lauren Ramey and Jack Coster. Neom previously signed a $2.1 million contract in June 2019 with Teneo for six months of work — the most lucrative Middle East lobbying/public relations contract of 2019.

Qorvis Communications
(for Saudi Arabia)

Hired: 2001
2018 fees: $17.7 million

Qorvis Communications
(for Muslim World League)

Hired: March 2019
2018 fees: $140,000

NEW Terminated foreign agent
Nikhita Godbole

 

Nikhita Godbole stopped working for Qorvis/MLSGroup on Jan. 17. She had been working on the firm’s accounts with Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the World Council of Religious Leaders, which gets funding from Saudi Arabia via the Muslim World League.

The Nickles Group
(for Saudi Aramco subsidiary Motiva Enterprises)

Hired: April 2019

NEW Q4 domestic lobbying filing

Saudi Aramco’s US refining subsidiary, Motiva Enterprises, paid The Nickles Group $70,000 to lobby on the Environmental Protection Agency’s renewable fuel standard, maritime oil transportation and tax credits.

LS2 Group
(for Saudi Arabia)

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

NEW Registered agent
Joel Tyler Stenseth

Joel Tyler Stenseth is now working as a coordinator for Iowa public relations firm LS2 Group’s account with Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Embassy in Washington hired LS2 in November to provide “strategic and government affairs advice, public relations and communications advice and services, and outreach and engagement with the public and media groups.”

Hogan Lovells
(for Saudi Arabia)

Hired: 2007
2018 fees: $2.4 million

NEW Foreign agent
Leyla Gungor

Leyla Gungor, a paralegal at Hogan Lovells, has joined the firm’s Saudi Arabia account.

Hathaway Strategies
LS2 Group subcontractor
(for Saudi Arabia)

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

NEW Amendment
NEW Foreign agent
Tim Phelps

Anne Hathaway, the president of Indianapolis-based Hathaway Strategies, has amended a December 2019 filing stating she would be paid $122,000 to work for Saudi Arabia. The new filing states that Hathaway will be paid a salary “not based solely on services rendered to” the country.

In addition, Tim Phelps, a former Republican National Committee official, has registered to lobby for Saudi Arabia with Indianapolis-based Hathaway Strategies.

Rose Law Group
(for Fondomonte Arizona)

Hired: Jan. 2019

NEW Q3 and Q4 domestic lobbying filings

The Arizona-based Rose Law Group reported no third or fourth quarter lobbying activity for Saudi-owned alfalfa farm Fondomonte Arizona.

KARV Communications
(for Public Investment Fund)

Hired: Jan. 2019

NEW Supplemental
(May 1, 2019 – Oct. 31, 2019)
Fees: $456,000

In the six months through October, Karv received $456,000 from Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund. In addition, Amir Handjani, a registered foreign agent for Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) via Karv Communications, contributed $2,800 to South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign in September. The Buttigieg campaign said it is refunding the contribution. Handjani has come under scrutiny for op-eds that did not disclose his ties to the PIF.

Saudi Refining
(for Saudi Arabia and Saudi Aramco)

Hired: 1988
2018 expenditures: $0

NEW Supplemental
(May 1, 2019 – Oct. 31, 2019)
Fees: $0

Texas-based Saudi Refining reported no lobbying activity or related income for the six-month period ending Oct. 31. The firm is a registered agent for both Saudi Aramco and the Saudi government.

    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
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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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