Saudi foreign agents’ political donations top $1.6 million in 2018 elections



Political donations made by foreign agents hired to act on behalf of Saudi Arabian interests have exceeded $1.6 million in the 2018 election cycle, according to a new analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Of the money flowing into U.S. elections from lobbyists, political operatives, firms and other foreign agents who have disclosed contracts to represent the political interests of Saudi Arabia in the United States, political donations from operatives working for Saudi interests exceed half a million in 2018 elections while PACs affiliated with lobbying and public relations firms account for an additional $1.1 million this election cycle.

The total amount of political donations made by Saudi foreign agents is a conservative estimate by CRP based on reported political contributions by individuals and firms registered as foreign agents of Saudi Arabia, excluding individual lobbyist or operative contributions to their firm’s affiliated PAC to ensure no funds are double-counted — meaning the total flow of money to politicians from lobbyists, firms and political operatives representing Saudi interests is likely much larger.


For example, this estimate does not include donations to House Armed Services Committee members from leftover funds in the campaign committee of former Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon while he was working as registered foreign agent of Saudi Arabia and lobbying for defense contractors with major interest in legislation related to arms deals under the committee’s purview. McKeon and his lobbying firm, the McKeon Group, signed on to represent the Saudi government’s political interests shortly after he left Congress, where he was the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. During his time on the Hill, McKeon himself was a top recipient of defense contractor funds as well.

Saudi interests have spent more than $24 million to influence U.S. policy and public opinion during the 2018 election cycle, according to disclosures to the Department of Justice made in compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and made available through CRP’s Foreign Lobby Watch tool. Around $18 million of that was paid to foreign agents acting on behalf of Saudi interests in 2017 and another $6 million in spending has already been reported this year, making Saudi Arabia one of the top 10 countries spending on influence and lobbying in the United States.

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