Saudi Arabia has an army of Washington lobbyists to deploy as it tries to stop US Congress from passing legislation that could expose the country to litigation over the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a report says.
According to The Hill newspaper, which is published by Capitol Hill Publishing and covers congressional news, the kingdom employs a total of eight American firms that perform lobbying, consulting, public relations and legal work.
Five of the firms work for the Saudi Arabia embassy, while another two have registered to represent the Center for Studies and Media Affairs at the Saudi Royal Court, an arm of the government, it said.
PR giant Edelman, meanwhile, is working for the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority to encourage international investment, the paper added.
If signed into law, the act would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue the Saudi government for any role it may have had in the attacks.
Riyadh has threatened to sell off USD 750 billion in American assets held by Saudi Arabia if the bill is passed. The selling of the assets would prevent them from being frozen by US courts if American victims are enabled to sue Saudi Arabia.
The White House has, however, indicated that Obama, who is currently on a trip to Riyadh, will veto the legislation if it is passed.
According to The Hill, the hiring spree began early last year when Saudi Arabia signed six K Street firms and added BGR to its roster last month.
The K Street Project is an effort by the Republican Party to pressure Washington lobbying firms to hire Republicans in top positions, and to reward loyal GOP lobbyists with access to influential officials, an arrangement known as crony capitalism.
BGR Group is a lobbying firm based in Washington DC, three blocks from the White House, and also has an office in London.
According to disclosure records filed to the US Justice Department, Saudi Arabia spent more than $9.4 million on advocacy in Washington for all of 2015.
Separate from the legislative push, members of US Congress are discussing the declassification of 28 pages from the 2002 congressional inquiry that reportedly examined the link between forces in Saudi Arabia and 9/11.
The dispute is causing a diplomatic storm for the Obama administration. Saudi Arabia has long been an ally of the US despite the country’s history of abusing human rights.