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Meet the Senators Who Took Saudi Money

In the wake of the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Senate voted last week to advance a resolution [1] ending U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen. We are now awaiting a Senate floor debate and a motion to proceed, which could come as early as Monday. [2]

While the measure passed, opposition from the Saudi lobby was fierce and strongly reflected in the vote. In fact, of the 37 senators who voted against the measure, 30 have received campaign contributions from lobbying firms working for the Saudis. In total, an analysis of Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) records reveals at least $226,182 in campaign contributions reported by firms registered to represent Saudi Arabia that went to these 30 senators over the past two years.

The top recipient of Saudi lobbying firm contributions among senators who voted against the measure was Dean Heller, Republican of Nevada, who received $27,150. Heller’s vote against the resolution on Wednesday was notable given that he had previously voted against [3] an arms sale to Saudi Arabia and was a co-sponsor of legislation [4] that would have prohibited the U.S. military from refueling Saudi warplanes.

Heller’s haul from Saudi lobbyists was closely followed by Roger Wicker, Ted Cruz, and Roy Blunt, Republicans all, who have received $25,550, $23,000, and $19,250, respectively, from Saudi lobbyists over the past two years. On the campaign trail, Cruz called [5] the possibility of the Saudi government ordering the murder of Jamal Khashoggi “troubling” and said “there should be real consequences for that.” His vote Wednesday was to block one of those consequences.

Blunt, unlike Cruz, has been largely uncritical of the Saudis’ role in Khashoggi’s death. Recently, he rejected the Central Intelligence Agency’s reportedly “high confidence” assessment that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had ordered the killing of Khashoggi, saying [6], “we don’t quite have all the information we’d like to have.”

Several of the senators who voted against the resolution received contributions from lobbyists on the same day they or their offices were contacted on behalf of the Saudis: Mike Crapo, John Boozman, Richard Burr, and Tim Scott.

To be sure, lobbyists and firms working for the Saudis have also made considerable campaign contributions to senators who voted for the measure. For example, Bob Corker, who voted for the resolution, has been one of the most outspoken critics of the Saudis following Khashoggi’s murder and recently called [7] the crown prince “out of control.” Yet a Hogan Lovells FARA filing [8] shows that the firm’s Saudi lobbyists met with Corker on April 26, 2017, and a lobbyist at the firm made a $2,700 contribution to Corker’s campaign that same day. Two months later, Corker’s campaign also received a $1,350 contribution from a Hogan Lovells lobbyist.

In addition to Corker, Democratic Senators Tim Kaine and Bill Nelson have been extremely critical of the Saudis and voted for the resolution to end U.S. support for the war in Yemen. This was despite Kaine being the top recipient of contributions from Saudi lobbyists, at $41,650, and Nelson being second, at $29,050, according to FARA filings from 2017 and 2018.

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Corker, Kaine, and Nelson show that campaign donations don’t necessarily determine votes. But the 37 senators that voted against punishing Saudi Arabia even after learning that the CIA concluded [9] that the Saudi crown prince ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s murder shows that the Saudi lobby’s influence nonetheless remains strong. Campaign contributions have been, and will continue to be, a key weapon for the Saudis in trying to keep members of Congress in line.

Ben Freeman is the director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center for International Policy and author of the The Foreign Policy Auction, an investigation of foreign influence in America.

34 Comments (Open | Close)

34 Comments To "Meet the Senators Who Took Saudi Money"

#1 Comment By Rock S On December 6, 2018 @ 10:10 pm

The Saudis aren’t paying Corker, Kaine, and Nelson for no reason. They didn’t vote with the Saudis on this one item, but I assume they’ve supported other aspects of the Saudi agenda. The Senators who voted with the Saudis on this resolution were paid off the same day. I wonder if that was true for past contributions for these other candidates – if they supported other Saudi-backed legislation on the days they received payments.

#2 Comment By Whine Merchant On December 6, 2018 @ 11:15 pm

“In addition to Corker, Democratic Senators Tim Kaine and Bill Nelson have been extremely critical of the Saudis and voted for the resolution to end U.S. support for the war in Yemen. This was despite Kaine being the top recipient of contributions from Saudi lobbyists, at $41,650, and Nelson being second, at $29,050, according to FARA filings from 2017 and 2018.”
So, onlythe GOP can be bpought? Must be following the path of their Dear Leadr.

Now, how about members of Congress who accepted AIPAC contributions [actually re-cycled US taxpayer $$]?

#3 Comment By The Corrupt On December 6, 2018 @ 11:50 pm

Why am I not surprised at the names of those who took the foreign lobby money? Look at that picture of Cruz. He looks like he was born to take bribes from the Saudis and other sketchy foreigners.

As long as this **** is legal they’ll do it. It shouldn’t just be illegal, it should mean hard prison time. This is how senators go into politics broke and come out multi-millionaires.

#4 Comment By Fred Bowman On December 6, 2018 @ 11:57 pm

It appears that the Saudis’ have taken some lessons from AIPAC.

#5 Comment By Clyde Schechter On December 7, 2018 @ 1:04 am

Some day, in the probably distant future, people will look back on our electoral practices, which allow the agents of foreign governments to make donations to our lawmakers, with the same sense of horror that today we look back on things like slavery.

#6 Comment By James from Durham On December 7, 2018 @ 6:42 am

How cheap are these guys? I mean, seriously selling out your country for $25K. Pathetic.

#7 Comment By HenionJD On December 7, 2018 @ 8:06 am

And I, for one, welcome our new Saudi overlords….

#8 Comment By Kent On December 7, 2018 @ 8:24 am

I’d like to see more articles like this. Maybe include Chinese and pro-Israel lobbying.

#9 Comment By Luis Gonzalez On December 7, 2018 @ 10:27 am

Legalized corruption. Nevertheless, the US is quick to point fingers to other countries about their corrupt ways. These Senators leave office and become lobbyists themselves.

#10 Comment By Sid Finster On December 7, 2018 @ 10:37 am

Oh look, prostitutes!

Axtually, I have more respect for bona fide streetwalkers, who at least are paid by the people they are servicing. Senators ostensibly serve We the People, but their real masters and paymasters are third parties.

#11 Comment By Huntsville On December 7, 2018 @ 11:11 am

More and more people are being permanently befouled by their involvement with this administration. Nikki Haley was already pretty ripe, but after the shockingly bad performance at the UN, the full-throated defense of the worst kind of Middle East filth, well, the smell’s never going away. These senators are headed down the same road. Senators have a way of sliding round some of the permanently damaging associations, but when you take money from a guy who dismembered a reporter and starves kids in Yemen, and then you vote to shield him in broad daylight, that’s one step beyond.

#12 Comment By Captain P On December 7, 2018 @ 12:08 pm

Who cares about open bribery by Saudi Arabia, let’s get back to speculations and unsourced news reports about Russiagate!

#13 Comment By John Blade Wiederspan On December 7, 2018 @ 1:30 pm

James from Durham, I fully agree, $25K for votes? This is chum change. You are right, not only did they sell out, but they sold out cheap. SAD!!

#14 Comment By Stephen J. On December 7, 2018 @ 1:46 pm

i believe, it could be called “blood money” for bloody support.

#15 Comment By One Guy On December 7, 2018 @ 2:03 pm

Who cares about open bribery by Saudi Arabia, let’s get back to calling Mueller a Democrat!

#16 Comment By Anon On December 7, 2018 @ 6:22 pm

Why not do an article on the five Supreme Court Justices who opened the flood gates for virtually unlimited campaign contributions to Federal election campaigns? I am referring to the Citizens United decision of 2010. Open Secrets has a list of the major donors for the 2018 election cycle here:
[10]

Donations by American lobbyists working for the Saudis are tiny in comparison to the amounts given by the organizations on the list. The Las Vegas Sands and the Adelson Drug Clinic (both on the list)are controlled by the same family. The list does not include political donations to Internal Revenue Code 527 organizations or to state and local races.

The whole business about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections is a distraction, as abortion and gay marriage were in prior elections. In the meantime, the national debt keeps growing and the “trust funds” for Social Security and Medicare are on the decline.

#17 Comment By Cake Face Goes To Washington On December 7, 2018 @ 10:55 pm

Good point by Fred Bowman above. The Saudis are just aping the Israelis. The original mistake was letting Israel get away with this kind of corruption of US politicians and officials.

Speaking of which. When is the DOJ going to appoint an independent counsel to look into Saudi and Israeli meddling in US politics?

21st century Russian meddling may be bad, but it can’t hold a candle to the intensity, money spent, or malign effects of Saudi and Israeli meddling.

#18 Comment By Oleg Gark On December 7, 2018 @ 11:15 pm

How on Earth did the Russians gain so much malign influence on American politics without the help of lobbyists? It doesn’t seem possible (because it isn’t).

#19 Comment By The Festering On December 8, 2018 @ 2:02 am

These corrupt senators, most or all of whom never served in uniform, will send young American men and women into harm’s way to prop up a murdering butcher who has nothing but contempt and hatred for America.

“James from Durham, I fully agree, $25K for votes? This is chum[p] change. You are right, not only did they sell out, but they sold out cheap. SAD!!”

These “donations” are just surety. The real money, the real reward, that all comes after they leave office and can be legally paid fantastic sums for doing nothing at all. The board memberships, the corner office for “consultants” at Goldman, the strings pulled on behalf of family and friends.

That’s what Cruz and his ilk are really waiting for.

#20 Comment By Parsimonious On December 8, 2018 @ 3:28 am

Hey! The guy in the middle looks like The Joker!!! (Ted looks a little like him too …)

#21 Comment By Ron Marshall On December 8, 2018 @ 4:21 am

So whats new?
US Lawmakers have been dishonest for a :ONG LONG time. Greed drives them

#22 Comment By thunderstruck On December 8, 2018 @ 7:46 am

Ted Cruz take money from foreign interests?

Pshaw! Get along with you! He would never do such a mean, low thing as that! Ted is a good Christian man!

#23 Comment By Jeeves On December 8, 2018 @ 11:34 am

Doing the arithmetic on this, I don’t see that the Saudis got much bang for the buck. The two-years’ worth of contributions doesn’t amount to much to begin with, and it appears that those who voted for the resolution got the most money. If you spread out what’s left over after the donations to the named senators, there’s not much for each of the 30+ senators who voted against the resolution. In other words, some must voted out of conviction, not cash.

#24 Comment By Anon On December 8, 2018 @ 12:40 pm

527 should read 501c. my mistake.

#25 Comment By Timothy S On December 8, 2018 @ 1:03 pm

Stephen J,
Blood money usually refers to money given to remedy or pay the family of victims for some wrong that’s been done.

I can’t speak for Americans. For politicians who do this in Canada I’d use a different word.

Treason.

#26 Comment By kahoot hack online On December 8, 2018 @ 4:17 pm

thanks for sharing it, for politicians who this in america will still alive. thanks

#27 Comment By frozen turkey On December 8, 2018 @ 7:56 pm

“In other words, some must voted out of conviction, not cash.”

Alrighty then! That makes it OK! Move along, folks, nothing to see here … no sense standing between politicians and the things they crave …

#28 Comment By monkey see On December 8, 2018 @ 8:10 pm

@Fred Bowman — “It appears that the Saudis’ have taken some lessons from AIPAC.”

The Saudis are close students of how Israel corrupts US politicans and elections, how Israeli spies and agents of influence regularly evade US justice. And they closely follow the Israeli pattern.

If the Russians were smart they would do the same. You don’t spend a few hundred thousand bucks on Facebook. All that does is get you an independent prosecutor. If you really want to meddle effectively, you direct $10s of millions in direct contributions to senators, congressmen, and officials of the major political parties. Like the Israelis and their Saudi disciples.

#29 Comment By Proof Positive On December 8, 2018 @ 8:38 pm

It’s not “corruption”. It’s “monetizing access”. Just ask Michael Cohen.

[11]

#30 Comment By Fran Macadam On December 9, 2018 @ 8:07 am

So let me parse this. The Saudis, foreign players, launder political campaign contributions to influence elections through American citizen cutouts, so the money somehow becomes American instead of Saudi.

How is this not a foreign state overtly interfering in American democracy, on a scale that dwarfs some Russian Facebook posts that cost a few cents about dogs and cats?

#31 Comment By Diane On December 9, 2018 @ 1:22 pm

Why are these creeps collecting a salary, health insurance and a pension from we the people when they take commissions to make our lives difficult? I hope they are counting on my contributions….cause they won’t be on that receiving end. I am my own charity.

#32 Comment By A Concerned Lady On December 9, 2018 @ 3:25 pm

I was reading this article, and saw Nevada, I immediately thought of the Las Vegas Massacre.

There has much speculation and evidence(With pics, videos,testimonies,etc.), to back the theory that this mass shooting was indeed covered up, with the truth never revealed.

One set of pictures shows middle eastern men in them, and it has been speculated that was a Saudi Operation(Turf war? 3 letter agencies?).

I got chills when I read that and was reminded of pictures I saw. But of course, that is why Las Vegas is called “Sin City”, and it has held that title for a very long time.

#33 Comment By Signreader On December 10, 2018 @ 3:54 am

I am appalled by this bellyaching for quarter of a million dollars, where as the Saudi Casino has involved in trillions to create all kind of crap throughout the world!
It is an unearned money bubbling out of desert that has further messed up the Saudi behavior also countries and corporations working for the petrodollars.
What do you expect when hundreds of corporations worked to convert place from stone age to digital age and every thing in between.
At least Americans made that place better functioning than the country down south Venezuela

#34 Comment By sell outs On December 12, 2018 @ 12:02 am

@monkey see : “If you really want to meddle effectively, you direct $10s of millions in direct contributions to senators, congressmen, and officials of the major political parties. Like the Israelis and their Saudi disciples.”

The return on investment is phenomenal. A few tens of millions contributed to the right politicians and officials netted Israel hundreds of billions in cash gifts. And it did it at a time when Americans were out of work and hurting. The money the Saudis gave the same politicians and officials netted them a license to kill anybody they like with tacit US approval. And both countries have got the US leading a charge against Iran that benefits them a hundred times more than it benefits us.

Those are the wages of corruption. American money given to foreign countries, American soldiers sent to fight and die for foreign interests. And then you reflect that Ted Cruz, who never served in the military and wasn’t even born here, poses as a “patriot”.