The roots of that lobby’s rise to prominence in Washington lie in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. As you may remember, with 15 of those 19 suicidal hijackers being citizens of Saudi Arabia, it was hardly surprising that American public opinion had soured on the Kingdom. In response, the worried Saudi royals spent around $100 million over the next decade to improve such public perceptions and retain their influence in the U.S. capital. That lobbying facelift proved a success until, in 2015, relations soured with the Obama administration over the Iran nuclear deal. Once Donald Trump won the presidency, however, the Saudis saw an unparalleled opportunity and launched the equivalent of a full-court press, an aggressive campaign to woo the newly elected president and the Republican-led Congress, which, of course, cost real money.
As a result, the growth of Saudi lobbying operations would prove extraordinary. In 2016, according to FARA records, they reported spending just under $10 million on lobbying firms; in 2017, that number had nearly tripled to $27.3 million. And that’s just a baseline figure for a far larger operation to buy influence in Washington, since it doesn’t include considerable sums given to elite universities or think tanks like the Arab Gulf States Institute, the Middle East Institute, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (to mention just a few of them).
– From the must read piece: The Saudi Lobby Juggernaut
It appears Saudi Arabia’s preparing to spin a tale about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi for the purpose of providing Donald Trump with cover to pretend nothing happened and get back to business as usual. Apparently, the Saudis plan to claim he was killed by rogue agents in a botched interrogation. No word about why it took them two weeks to admit this, why they blatantly lied about him leaving consulate and whether or not the body was hacked into pieces with a bone saw.
It’s been clear from the beginning that Trump would like this to go away as quickly as possible in order to keep the money flowing to defense contractors, as you can see from the clip below.
I found that statement illuminating because it reminded me of something CNN’s Wolf Blitzer said to Rand Paul back in 2016.
Donald Trump and CNN don’t agree that often, but on this issue they’re on the exact same page. This is telling and highlights the increasingly obvious fact the Saudis believe they can get away with anything they want as long as they keep oil priced in dollars and money flowing into the coffers of our country’s incomprehensibly corrupt status quo.
The Saudis have had U.S. leaders by the balls for many decades — a historical reality birthed by the petrodollar — but the monarchy’s untouchable position became more explicit after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Despite deep Saudis ties to this mass murder of American civilians, the royal family faced zero consequences. Instead, the U.S. government just went ahead and started invading other countries to advance imperial ambitions.
While many of you are intimately familiar with the key role of the petrodollar in U.S. Saudi relations, you may not be as familiar with how the Saudis systematically throw money around U.S. power centers to ensure “thought leaders” dutifully toe the Saudi line. Naturally, the swamp of fawning parasites otherwise known as Washington D.C. is a core recipient of such largess. One of the more high profile examples of such payoffs was the $140,000 per month contract the Saudis had with the now defunct Podesta Group, founded by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign chair John Podesta and his brother Tony.
Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Yesterday, Glenn Greenwald noted how the Washington Post (where the murdered Jamal Khashoggi published articles) had Saudi lobbyists writing opinion pieces for the paper. Specifically, we learned:
Carter Eskew is a former top-level adviser to Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign and a Founder and Managing Director of Glover Park Group which, according to the Post’s own reporting, is one of the Saudi regime’s largest lobbyists. Glover Park, says the Post, has “remained silent amid growing public outrage over reports that Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi Consulate.” Indeed, as the New York Times reported this week, Eskew’s firm, “which was started by former Clinton administration officials,” is the second-most active lobbying firm for the Saudi regime, “being paid $150,000 a month.”
In addition to his work as a Managing Director in one of the Saudi regime’s most devoted lobbying firms, Eskew is also a Contributing Opinion Writer at the Washington Post.
Given all the moral decrees and shaming campaigns the Post has issued over the past ten days, how can they possibly justify their ongoing relationship with Eskew as his firm lobbies for the Saudi regime and he attends the regime’s P.R.-building event?
That question is even more compelling when it comes to Ed Rogers, the long-time GOP operative who is currently an Opinion Writer for the Washington Post. In addition to his work for Hiatt on the Post’s Op-Ed page, Rogers himself is receives substantial financial rewards for his work as an agent of the Saudi regime. Just two months ago, the lobbying firm of which he’s the Chairman, BGR Group (headed by former RNC Chairman and GOP Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour), signed a new contract that includes “assist[ing] the Saudis in communicating priority issues regarding US-Saudi relations to American audiences including the media and policy communities.”
According to the firm’s own press release, “BGR chairman Ed Rogers” – also an Opinion Writer for the Washington Post – “handles the Saudi work.”
Democracy doesn’t die in darkness, but with Saudi lobbyists shamelessly writing opinion pieces for major newspapers.
(*Note: Following the publication of the Intercept article referenced above, both lobbying firms in which Washington Post writers are partners, Glover Park and BGR, have ended their contracts with Saudi Arabia.)
Moreover, there seems to be a direct correlation between the number of civilians killed in Yemen and the amount of money the Saudis throw around D.C. As a must read article in Tom Dispatch noted: “In 2016, according to FARA records, they reported spending just under $10 million on lobbying firms; in 2017, that number had nearly tripled to $27.3 million.”
This is one way foreign governments bribe U.S. politicians.
Send money to lobbyists, lobbyists send money to politicians.
Utter disgrace. pic.twitter.com/qzkGmyT8wc
— Michael Krieger (@LibertyBlitz) October 8, 2018
Moving along, the Saudis are adept at spreading their money around, with Hollywood’s another key target. As Forbes noted earlier this year:
Saudi Arabia’s $230 billion sovereign wealth vehicle, the Public Investment Fund, is on track to invest hundreds of millions in Hollywood as the first new screens go up in the Kingdom. Its hallmark purchase is a soon-to-close $400 million deal for an estimated 7% in Endeavor, the sprawling entertainment conglomerate that includes powerful talent agency WME, several live event brands and a burgeoning production business.
Side note: WME, also known as William Morris Endeavor, was co-founded by Ari Emanuel (Rahm Emanuel’s brother).
Beyond D.C. and Hollywood, we all know how Silicon Valley oligarchs swarmed to pucker up to MBS when he came stateside on is propaganda tour earlier this year.
None of this stopped endless Saudi fawning by U.S. politicians, media, Hollywood, Wall Street, tech oligarchs, etc.
Our “elites” are depraved. pic.twitter.com/eAjtMtdZrC
— Michael Krieger (@LibertyBlitz) October 11, 2018
Meanwhile, don’t think for a moment that the titans of Wall Street would be left out.
We all want someone to look at us the same way that Jamie Dimon and Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud look at each other. pic.twitter.com/7t8iUY7qi8
— Rudolf E. Havenstein Remembers (@RudyHavenstein) October 8, 2018
Many of you have already seen these photos, but the point is to hammer home that US. power players are, generally speaking, utterly depraved and entirely void of any sort of ethical framework whatsoever. While many have been forced to back out of the upcoming Saudi conference for public relations reasons, all of them, including Trump, just want this thing to go away so they can get back to business.
SCOOP-Companies that have pulled out of next weeks Saudi investment conference following the Khashoggi murder tell @FoxBusiness they will maintain biz ties to the country and its royal family for the simple reason that there’s too much money at stake
— Charles Gasparino (@CGasparino) October 15, 2018
There is literally zero as in zero chance this murder/interrogation was not cleared by the crown prince. As in zero. To suggest otherwise is to willingly believe in absolute intentional nonsense. Watch the reactions of politicians & alleged leaders & it will be so obvious https://t.co/mT9qfeI9TE
— Patrick Skinner (@SkinnerPm) October 15, 2018
The Saudis think oil and money make them untouchable. Perhaps they’re right. For now.
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