Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Saudi Arabia hires 10th lobby firm


By Megan R. Wilson - 10/03/16 12:05 PM EDT

The government of Saudi Arabia is now employing 10 lobbying firms in Washington as it grapples with a new law that would allow families of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to sue the country.

The Saudis have hired King & Spalding to provide “advocacy and legal services” related to the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, according to a contract filed with the Justice Department. It’s the fifth firm to be hired by the country in recent weeks.

Congress handed President Obama his first veto override last week, turning the 9/11 bill into law. But top Republican lawmakers are already discussing rewriting the law to address some of the unintended consequences.

Saudi Arabia hired four other firms at the end of September, right before the White House issued its veto. Heavyweights Squire Patton Boggs, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and Glover Park Group, along with Sphere Consulting, were added to the payroll.

Unlike the other firms, King & Spalding inked its contract through Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Commerce and Investment. The agreement does not discuss fees or the duration of the work, saying those details were still being worked out.

A review of disclosures by The Hill shows that Saudi Arabia is now paying upward of $1.3 million in lobbying fees per month — including payments to its other firms, Hogan Lovells, MSLGroup, DLA Piper, Podesta Group and BGR Group. Targeted Victory, a Republican ad firm, is working through a subcontract with MSLGroup.

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia threatened to sell off hundreds of billions of dollars of American assets should the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act become law.

Obama has warned that the law allowing Americans to sue countries or individuals suspected of sponsoring terrorism could also ultimately open up Americans to lawsuits by foreign governments.

Companies like Boeing, Dow Chemical, General Electric and Chevron also pressed lawmakers not to vote for the override, according to Politico.

Almost immediately after the vote to sustain the legislation into law, overturning Obama’s veto, leaders began discussing ways to change it.

“I would like to think there’s a way we can fix so that our service members do not have legal problems overseas while still protecting the rights of the 9/11 victims,” Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said last week after the successful veto override.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said that he spoke to Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir last week, according to Bloomberg, and the Saudis are open to tweaking the law with new legislation following the November elections.

Prior to the law, families of terrorist attack victims could only sue governments thought to be responsible if the country was a State Department-designated sponsor of terrorism. Saudi Arabia does not have that designation.

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 hailed from Saudi Arabia. Critics have long suspected that the kingdom’s government may have either directly or indirectly supported the attacks, something the Saudis vehemently deny.

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