Saudi Arabia is poised to employ more than US$9 million a year on lobbying to stop the U.S. Congress passing a bill that could expose its role in the Sep. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
According to documents disclosed by the U.S. Justice Department, Saudi Arabia hires at least eight U.S. firms that carry out lobbying, consulting and public relations to advocate for the kingdom’s financial and political interests among U.S. lawmakers and media organizations.
According to the public records, Saudi Arabia spent more than US$9.4 million on lobbying in 2015 alone.
Saudi Arabia hires Edelman, the biggest public relations agency in the world, and the Podesta Group, one of the U.S.’s biggest lobbying groups, The Intercept website reported in October last year, citing public documents.
The Hill website reported that Podesta Group receives US$140,000 a year from Saudi Arabia for services.
During the last few months of 2015, Podesta Group sent 27 emails, had two phone calls and one meeting with lawmakers, staff, journalists and organizations including Human Rights Watch and the Center for American Progress, disclosure forms show.
Meanwhile, disclosures in March reveal that Saudi Arabia added a new company to its lobbying muscle by hiring BGR Government Affairs, a company founded by former Republican National Committee Chair Haley Barbour.
According to The Intercept, BGR services are provided by “Jeffrey Birnbaum, a former Washington Post reporter who once covered the lobbying industry and now works as a lobbyist, as well as Ed Rogers, a former Reagan administration official who now lobbies and writes a column for the Post called ‘PostPartisan.'”
The large controversial lobbying firm receives US$500,000 annually to assist with U.S. media outreach for Saudi government agencies.
Saudi Arabia has already threatened to pull out its US$750 billion in assets from the U.S. if the bill passes and the 28 pages are disclosed.
President Barack Obama’s administration has publicly spoken out against criticism he is siding with the controversial Saudi kingdom against victims of the 9/11 attacks.
The 28 pages detailing Saudi involvement in 9/11 are classified pages from a 2004 report on a congressional commission investigation into how 19 hijackers, 17 of whom were Saudi citizens, were able to operate on U.S. soil without alerting federal intelligence agencies.
The report concluded that no "senior level" Saudi government officials were involved, but legal experts have said the wording leaves room for involvement of other members of the Saudi royal family or government.