The UAE’s Lobbyists

From Holden:

The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) mandates that the Department of Justice must maintain a register of lobbyists who ply their trade for foreign countries. DOJ’s most recent available report on FARA, for the six months ending December 31, 2004, lists Qorvis Communications as lobbying Congress on behalf of the United Arab Emirates.

SourceWatch.org provides some background info on Dubai’s boys in Washington.

[Qorvis Communications] announced several months after 9/11, on March 21st, 2002, that they were receiving a $200,000 a month retainer from the government of Saudi Arabia.

In December 2002, the New York Times reported that three of the founding partners of Qorvis announced that they were leaving the firm. Times reporter Philip Shenon reported that associates said “their departure reflects a deep discomfort in representing the government of Saudi Arabia against accusations that Saudi leaders have turned a blind eye to terrorism.”

[snip]

In December 2004, the FBI raided three of Qorvis’ offices, and delivered subpoenas to a fourth. Officials at the U.S. attorney’s office confirmed the raids, but would not comment further since there was an “ongoing investigation.” Qorvis “said the company understood that the government is conducting a ‘compliance inquiry’ under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.” The company formally stated that “Qorvis has fully complied with this registration statute and we feel confident this will be resolved favorably.”

One week later, Newsweek reported that the Justice Department investigation of Qorvis involved a “2002 radio ad campaign supposedly paid for by an obscure group called the Alliance for Peace and Justice,” which the report described as “a hastily arranged and now dormant group consisting of well-established Washington organizations active in Middle East issues.” At question is “whether the Alliance for Peace and Justice was used by Qorvis president Michael Petruzzello and his chief client, the Saudi Embassy’s [Adel] al-Jubeir, to run advertisements that were really designed to burnish the Saudi government’s image and influence the domestic debate on U.S. Mideast policy.”

The radio ad campaign in question ran in 30 U.S. cities in 2002. The spots praised the Arab League’s “fair plan” for a Middle East peace settlement. The content of the ads was described as one person involved with the campaign as “moderate.” The issue for the Justice Department is whether the ads ran afouls of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires “political or ‘informational’ messages be clearly labeled with a statement that the message was sponsored by a foreign government.” Newsweek reported, “The ads were initially financed by a ‘bridge loan’ of about $640,000 from the Saudi Embassy” and “the loan was repaid by funds solicited by al-Jubeir in Saudi Arabia from businesses associated with the Chambers of Commerce in Saudi Arabia and believed to be close to the Saudi government.”

I bet we hear more about Qorvis Communications in the days to come.

UPDATE: Qorvis Communications also did PR work on behalf of Chimpy’s plan to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

UPDATE II: Beltway power firm Patton Boggs owns a 15% share in Qorvis Communications. Patton Boggs (founded by Cokie Roberts’ brother, Thomas Hale Boggs, Jr.) has for years been the Saudi mouthpiece in Washington.