For some U.S. senators, Saudi campaign funding appears to be more important than preventing the imminent and needless deaths of millions of innocent Yemenis.
WASHINGTON — At least five of the 37 Republican senators who voted against ending U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen received campaign contributions from lobbying groups working on behalf of the Saudi monarchy in 2016 and 2017, according to a recent report published by the Center for International Policy (CIP).
The report, titled “The Saudi Lobby: How the Kingdom Wins in Washington,” examines the top U.S. lobbying firms that are registered as foreign agents working on behalf of the Saudi kingdom, as well as the members of Congress who benefited financially from their lobbying activities. The report was published prior to the Senate vote on Wednesday, in which senators voted 63-37 to advance a bill requiring President Trump to withdraw U.S. troops in or affecting Yemen, on which the final vote is scheduled for next week.
However, the report reveals that five of the 37 senators who voted against advancing the measure, officially known as S.J.R. 54, had received significant campaign contributions from lobbying firms representing Saudi interests between 2016 and 2017. The lobbying firms cited in the report were registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) as having been paid by the Saudi government to represent their interest over this same period of time.
According to the report, Senators Tim Scott (R-SC), John Boozman (R-AR), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Richard Burr (R-NC), and Mike Crapo (R-ID) all received thousands of dollars, with several of them receiving campaign contributions the very same day that they were contacted by Saudi lobbyists. Of these senators, Senator Blunt received the most funds from firms lobbying on behalf of the Saudi government, taking in $19,200 in 2017.
Republican senators are hardly the only politicians to have received campaign contributions Saudi-paid lobbyists. As the report notes, political contributions from Saudi-linked firms were bipartisan, with the greatest campaign contributions between 2016 and 2017 going to Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign.
In addition, the data cited by CIP shows that Democratic senators Bill Nelson (D-FL), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) all received more than $20,000 each in campaign contributions from lobbying firms representing Saudi interests. One of the top lobbying firms of the Saudi Arabian government in the U.S. is the Podesta Group, which is linked to Hillary Clinton’s former campaign chair, John Podesta.
The revelation that some of the senators who voted against advancing S.J.R. 54 received lucrative campaign donations from Saudi interests has brought the influence of the Saudi Arabia lobby back under scrutiny.
The group of U.S. lobbying firms that represent Saudi interests came under fire last year after it was revealed that some of those firms were exploiting U.S. military veterans by offering luxurious, all-expense-paid trips to Washington – including stays at the Trump International Hotel – in order to use the veterans as part of the Saudi bid to challenge the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, commonly referred to by its acronym JASTA or simply as the “9/11 bill.” JASTA grants American citizens the ability to sue Saudi Arabia, as well as any other nations with proven links to terror attacks that occurred on U.S. soil and resulted in American casualties.
Saudi $$, Trump’s cajoling not enough
While it seems likely that these senators were financially influenced to vote against advancing the Senate bill that would end U.S. military support for the war in Yemen, others may have voted against the measure in order to please President Trump, who has vocally opposed the bill and threatened to veto it if it is passed. Several media reports noted that the Trump administration had sent both Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Capitol Hill in order to persuade senators to vote against bringing the bill to a floor vote.
The Senate’s rejection of the Trump administration’s efforts to kill the bill was widely described as a sharp rebuke of Trump’s handling of recent controversies surrounding Saudi Arabia, particularly the murder of Saudi journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi in early October. Many senators who normally support Saudi Arabia, such as Lindsey Graham (R-SC), voted in support of advancing the bill because of the Trump administration’s response to the Khashoggi affair.
Yet, while Khashoggi’s death provoked widespread outrage among the U.S. media and political elite, the situation in Yemen is more than enough in itself to challenge the U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in the troubled country. Since it began in 2015, the war has killed an estimated 50,000 people and provoked a horrific famine that threatens more than two-thirds of the country’s population. It has also allowed history’s worst cholera outbreak to proliferate, a situation worsened by the Saudi-led coalition’s years-long blockade of food, medicine and other essential goods from entering the country.
Unfortunately, for some U.S. senators, Saudi campaign funding appears to be more important than preventing the imminent and needless deaths of millions of innocent Yemenis.
Top Photo | Saudi King Salman, second right, walks with US President Donald Trump to attend the Arab Islamic American Summit, at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center, May 21, 2017, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Evan Vucci | AP
Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.