Saudi Arabia has taken a new crop of lobbyists ahead of the Biden administration

Saudi Arabia’s state president-elect is on a hiring spree for lobbyists in the form of Joe Biden, who has indicated he will take a tough stance with the nation, preparing to assume office.

With the prospect of a more turbulent relationship with the US, Saudi Arabia is hiring some lobbyists along with Republican congressional leaders.

These lobbyists would likely have more success in engaging with GOP lawmakers in the new Congress than with the administration of Democrats or Biden. Republicans profited in the House of Representatives during the 2020 election and may have a slight edge in the Senate if they win one seat for Graves in two Georgia runoff early next month.

Biden told the Council on Foreign Relations during the Democratic primary last year that he would withdraw US support for Saudi Arabia on key issues.

“I will end America’s support for the disastrous Saudi-led war in Yemen and order a reevaluation of our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” Biden said. He said, “This is the past to restore a sense of balance, perspective and loyalty in our values ​​in our relationships in the Middle East. President Trump has issued a dangerously empty check to Saudi Arabia.”

The kingdom is largely operated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. NBC News reported in 2018 that they ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashogi, which some prince denied. The President was, at the time, standing by Saudi Arabia after Khashogi’s death. The two nations signed nearly a $ 110 billion arms deal a year ago.

Saudi Arabia’s government spent more than $ 30 million on lobbying activities on 2018, according to the Irresponsible Center for Responsibility Politics. So far in 2020, spending has grown to $ 5 million.

A representative of the Saudi Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.

A recently leased loan came through Shannan Slifka Group, an Iowa-based public affairs shop that signed a lucrative contract with the Saudi embassy last year. Also known as LS2group, the embassy agreed to pay $ 1.5 million for a year in 2019.

The new records include LS2 recently brought on the Arena Strategy Group for actions that “inform the public, government officials and the media and promote and foster stronger ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia” “Includes,” a foreign lobbying report says about giving.

The document states that the contract began a few weeks after Biden was declared president-elect. The contract is worth about $ 5,000 every month.

Arena’s government affairs efforts are led by Mark Grall, a Republican political strategist who was Wisconsin’s state director for President George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign. He was the chief of staff for former Rep. Mark Green, R-Wis., When Green was in Congress. Green became the head of the US Agency for International Development under Trump, only to resign earlier this year.

Giral did not return a request for comment.

The DC Embassy of Saudi Arabia also recently hired Off Hill Strategies for a period through the transition period for the final term of the election.

The firm is a boutique lobbying shop founded by Trip Bird, who was once the director of government relations at the US conservative organization Heritage Action. The contract began in late October while Biden was ahead of Trump in almost all national elections. The $ 25,000-per-month agreement also goes until Jan. 18, note that two days before Biden is inaugurated.

The effort to lobby for Off Hill, according to its contract, “is to support the embassy’s congressional outreach efforts and to advance bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States.” A separate lobbying disclosure report suggests that Off Hill was helping Saudi Arabia “gather information about the law to be held at the end of the year.”

Baird did not return a request for comment.

In another example, the Saudis turned to a major public relations firm to support the development of an expensive city aimed at fueling the country’s growing international ambitions.

According to a filing, public relations executive Eggelman Edelman emailed a leader of a large Saudi land development, known as Neom, to broaden their agreement. Jere Sullivan, vice president of the global public affairs firm, told Neom that Edelman would provide strategic consulting, media relations, stakeholder identification and engagement, as well as content development.

According to the email, the agreement is scheduled to run from mid-November to February and is expected to cost up to $ 75,000 each month.

According to the Foreign Lobbying Disclosure Report for Edman, “The Public Investment Fund (PIF) is wholly owned by the Government of Saudi Arabia as its sovereign property. As such, its activities are overseen, directed, controlled.” Financed and funded. “

The Wall Street Journal reported last year that the Neom project is supported by MBS and the project is worth $ 500 billion for the Saudi city-state. The Journal reported at the time that by 2030, MBS is expecting the newly developed region to be one of the global hub for technology, according to the Saudi leadership believing it will replace Silicon Valley’s US tech hub Can. The anticipated timeline for completion coincides with Biden’s first term as president and will take over from 2024 onwards.

Neom’s website states that it is “an area to be built from the ground up as a living area on the Red Sea in northwest Saudi Arabia” and will provide “a plethora of unique development opportunities, as its strategic coastal Red Sea location is notable Is not. For its proximity to international markets and trade routes. “

The group says it expects the project to be completed in the next seven to 10 years.

Sullivan declined to comment.


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