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

97

REGISTERED AGENTS

AL-MONITOR
LOBBYING RANK

#14 (tie)

Hathaway Strategies
LS2 Group subcontractor
(for Saudi Arabia)

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

 

Summit Information Services
LS2 Group subcontractor
(for Saudi Arabia)

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

NEW Contracts

Saudi Arabia has brought on two more public relations firms as it continues to suffer the fallout from last year’s murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Indiana-based Hathaway Strategies and Summit Information Services out of Colorado have each signed annual $120,000 contracts with Iowa-based LS2 Group (aka Larson Shannahan Slifka), which was hired by the Saudi Embassy in Washington last month on a $1.5 million per year contract.
 
David Cunningham, Karen Mason and Carol Saade will all work on the Summit Information Services account. Meanwhile, Hathaway Strategies’ Anne Hathaway is the sole foreign agent on the firm’s account. Hathaway is the former chief of staff for the Republican National Committee.

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.

Qorvis Communications
(for Saudi Arabia)

Hired: 2001
2018 fees: $17.7 million

NEW Informational materials

A delegation from the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen led by its director of projects and studies, Hassan al-Attas, met with US Agency for International Development (USAID) officials and think tank leaders during a visit to Washington last week, according to a filing from Saudi lobbyist Qorvis/MSLGroup. Attas notably met with USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance Rob Jenkins and Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Middle East Jason Foley. Yemen’s ambassador to the United States, Ahmed bin Mubarak, was also present.

LS2 Group
(for Saudi Arabia)

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

NEW Contract

Saudi Arabia has hired Iowa-based public relations firm LS2 Group for $126,500 per month for strategic and government affairs advice and public relations services. The agents on the account, which was effective Nov. 1, are Kendall Benjamin, Olivia Gaul, Charles Larson Jr., Charles Midkiff, Karen Slifka, James Tobin and Mary Wood. This is the seventh firm currently registered to work for the Saudi Embassy in the United States or the Saudi Foreign Ministry. LS2 briefly provided communications services to Qorvis/MSLGroup as part of the doomed lobbying campaign against the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which allows terrorism lawsuits against the kingdom in US court. Qorvis paid the LS2 Group $76,500 in late 2016/early 2017 for its work. At the time, Larson was registered as a consultant for Qorvis.

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

Hired: April 2019
2018 fees: $140,000

NEW Registered foreign agent
Mariam Samsoudine

Mariam Samsoudine has registered to work on Qorvis’ account with KSRelief.

Qorvis Communications
(for Muslim World League)

Hired: March 2019
2018 fees: $140,000

NEW Informational materials

NEW Registered foreign agents
Harry Campbell II
Mariam Samsoudine

Qorvis distributed talking points from the Muslim World League applauding the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and calling for the Muslim world to instead seek guidance from the Charter of Makkah endorsed in May by more than 1,200 of the world’s leading Muslim scholars.

Harry Campbell II and Mariam Samsoudine have registered to work for the Saudi-funded Muslim World League via Qorvis.

Hogan Lovells
(for Saudi Arabia)

Hired: 2007
2018 fees: $2.4 million

NEW Informational materials

Saudi Arabia lobby shop Hogan Lovells has been reaching out to some of the harshest congressional critics of the kingdom’s Yemen campaign to highlight its assistance to the country. On Oct. 8, registered agent Adam “Ari” Fridman forwarded a press release about Riyadh’s $500 million donation at a Sept. 25 humanitarian response conference held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. The email was sent to Sarah Arkin, the Democratic policy director on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Brandt Anderson, national security adviser for Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind.; Geo Saba, legislative director for Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif.; David Bagby, chief of staff for Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis.; and Carolyn Iodice, legislative director for Rep. Justin Amash, I-Mich. The email also went to Craig Abele, the national security adviser for Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a champion of the Saudi-led campaign against Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

Qorvis Communications
(for World Council of Religious Leaders)

Hired: December 2018
2018 fees: $140,000

NEW Supplemental
(April 1, 2019 – Sept. 30, 2019)

NEW Termination

Qorvis stopped working for the World Council of Religious Leaders on Sept. 30. The firm was hired in Dec. 2018 for $290,000 to  provide “public relations, website development, and event planning services” for the council, whose funding sources include the Saudi-funded Muslim World League. The World Council of Religious Leaders paid the firm $131,000 in fees and expenses in the six-month period ending Sept. 30. The firm disclosed contacting media outlets in April regarding a UN conference.

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck
(for Saudi Arabia)

Hired: Sept. 2016
2018 fees: $1.8 million

NEW Terminated registered agent
Milan Dalal

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck counsel Milan Dalal stopped working for Saudi Arabia on Dec. 31, 2018.

SABIC Innovative Plastics
(in-house)

Registered: 2007
2018 fees: $460,000

NEW Q3 domestic lobbying filing

SABIC Innovative Plastics US, a subsidiary of Saudi manufacturing firm SABIC, spent $80,000 on in-house lobbying. The group lobbied Congress on fuel economy standards, natural gas, environmental chemical laws, rail improvements, infrastructure, piping investment and competition, as well as “sound implementation” of 2017 tax legislation.

    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
  • Crown prince avoids sanctions in Khashoggi death
  • Trump overrules Congress on arms sales prohibition
  • US shares civilian nuclear technology
LOSSES
  • US sanctions Saudi officials
  • Congress seeks to end Yemen war
  • Lobby firms abandon Riyadh

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