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Title: The Saudi Agents Next Door: Americans Who Cashed in on Campaign to Stop 9/11 Trial
Source: Blacklisted News
URL Source: http://www.blacklistednews.com/The_ ... 1_Trial/59678/0/38/38/Y/M.html
Published: Jul 13, 2017
Author: Brian P. McGlinchey
Post Date: 2017-07-14 15:46:57 by Deckard
Keywords: None
Views: 107

By Brian P. McGlinchey Mike Gibson of Community Strategies Inc

Last October, the Saudi government partnered with Qorvis MSLGROUP to launch a massive, nationwide lobbying effort aimed at undermining a new law that cleared the way for 9/11 families and survivors to sue Saudi Arabia for its alleged support of al Qaeda and its hijackers.

Now, a disclosure filing with the Department of Justice gives an indication of the high cost of the effort, and helps shine a light on Americans all across the country hired to execute the kingdom’s campaign to keep evidence of its links to 9/11 out of court.

Campaign Marked by Deceptive Premise, Misconduct

The principal weapon in the Saudi attack on the measure was a false argument—specifically, the claim that, if other countries adopted their own versions of JASTA, U.S. military service members and veterans of every war would face trials in foreign courts.

JASTA, however, doesn’t authorize suits against individuals—only governments. “JASTA poses no risk of exposing U.S. service members to lawsuits in foreign courts,” said William S. Dodge, former counselor on international law at the State Department, in a February interview with 28Pages.org.  

In addition to its deceptive premise, the Saudi-Qorvis campaign has been characterized by rampant violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)—most notoriously, providing veterans with paid travel to Washington to lobby against JASTA without informing them that Saudi Arabia was organizing the effort. The misconduct prompted a 9/11 families and victims group to lodge a lengthy and detailed complaint with the Department of Justice.

Meanwhile, despite the extraordinary effort of the kingdom and its American surrogates—which also included placing opinion pieces in newspapers, recruiting citizens to sign on to letters to Congress, contacting state and federal legislators and soliciting influential community leaders to call for changes to JASTA—the law remains intact.

This report shows just some of those who helped the Saudi effort to thwart the 9/11 families’ and victims’ civil suit. It’s organized by Qorvis disbursements ranked by size—from the biggest seven-digit heavyweight to the former Maryland GOP communications director who earned just $150.

User Guide

  • In the main headings, most names link to firms’ websites. Names of individual agents link to their FARA registration forms.
  • This article only focuses on the lobbying effort run by Qorvis; the Saudis also employ many other firms.
  • This is not a comprehensive list of everyone involved in the Qorvis campaign. only those we could link to specific Qorvis payouts. For others, see this story.
  • Send corrections or additional information to info@28pages.org.
  • If you’re a journalist and would like help with your reporting, click here.
Sara Raak

$7,117,145: Community Strategies, Inc

Location: Washington, D.C. 

Registered Saudi Agents: Michael GibsonSara Raak

In the early days of the emerging Saudi lobbying scandal, Michael Gibson’s name appeared on an email coordinating flight arrangements for one of the veterans invited to travel to Washington to lobby against the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA)—without being told that Saudi Arabia was behind the effort.

Given his involvement in that low-level transaction, one may have concluded at the time that Gibson’s role in the Saudi campaign was relatively modest. The recent Qorvis disclosure filing revealed that, quite to the contrary, Gibson played a critical and commanding role.

A majority of the $7.1 million that Qorvis paid to Community Strategies was funneled out to dozens of other entities and individuals all across the country. However, Community Strategies itself received $3,123,936 for “grass roots activation and supervision.” Considering the widespread misconduct across Gibson’s sprawling operation, the suggestion that he had supervisory responsibility isn’t a flattering one. Jason Johns

$825,990: Wisconsin Legislative Strategies

Registered Saudi Agent: Jason Johns

Location: Oregon, Wisconsin

Along with Scott Wheeler (found two entries below), Jason Johns ran the most infamous parts of the Saudi campaign against JASTA: programs by which groups of veterans were flown to Washington to lobby against the bill, without being told the initiative was organized and funded by Saudi Arabia.

Beyond failing to disclose his Saudi sponsorship, several witnesses say that Johns, without prompting, claimed that Saudi Arabia was not involved.

Veterans recruited by Johns and his associates were housed at the Trump International DC, where they enjoyed free meals and open bars. (Wheeler’s operation was separate and used different hotels.)

At the time of his work for Saudi Arabia, Johns was National Senior Vice Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH). According to MOPH emails shared with 28Pages.org, Johns has since been suspended from the organization for one year for a cause unrelated to his anti-JASTA activities.

When originally registering as a Saudi agent, Johns declared he would be paid $100,000. Much of the $825,990 paid to his firm may have covered travel expenses for the veterans he brought to Washington. Billy Horton

$569,090: Hard Count, Inc

Registered Saudi Agent: William D. “Billy” Horton 

Location: Austin, Texas 

Hard Count specializes in both grassroots and “grasstops” advocacy, the latter term referring to efforts that focus on opinion leaders and people with connections to elected officials. Scott Wheeler with Veterans on Capitol Hill

$375,991: Capitol Media Group

Registered Saudi Agent: Scott Wheeler

Location: Atlanta, Georgia 

Though Wheeler’s operation was distinct from that of Jason Johns, above, it was very similar in that it entailed flying groups of veterans to Washington to lobby for changes to JASTA.

Like Johns, Wheeler failed to inform veterans that Saudi Arabia was paying their way—and paying him a $90,000 fee.

Wheeler’s registration as a Saudi agent came months after it was required under law, but just two days after 9/11 families and victims filed their DOJ complaint alleging broad misconduct, including the failure of many participants to register.

Wheeler’s registration indicated he reported directly to Saudi Arabia, and specifically to then-Saudi ambassador Prince Abdullah bin Faisal. However, Brad Owens, a veteran who recruited others on Wheeler’s behalf, says Wheeler claimed that—contrary to his attorney’s sworn declarations on Capitol Media Group’s registration—there were multiple intermediaries between him and the Saudis. Further, Owens said Wheeler asserted that he himself wasn’t initially informed of Saudi Arabia’s role.

Given Wheeler was paid by Qorvis, it may well be true that Wheeler didn’t report directly to the kingdom. If so, that would seem to indicate that his attorney—James Kevin Wholey, former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole—mishandled Wheeler’s tardy DOJ filing, registering Capitol Media Group as a primary registrant when he should have instead filed using a “short form” indicating Wheeler was working under Qorvis.

In another apparent lapse, Elliott Schwartz of QE Intelligence is said to have performed substantial duties in Wheeler’s lobbying operation, yet his name does not appear in a search of FARA registrants.

Given the conflicting accounts, many questions remain about Wheeler; chief among them: Who recruited him, what exactly did they tell him about who was behind the operation, and when did he learn about Saudi Arabia’s role? Wheeler has refused 28Pages.org’s interview requests, and has emailed participating veterans, attempting to discredit the reporting here and to discourage them from talking as well. H. Benson Dendy III

$277,500: Vectre Corporation

Registered Saudi Agents: H. Benson Dendy IIIChristopher J. WhytePhilip F. AbrahamLauren R. Abraham,  M. David Skiles

Location: Richmond, Virginia

This firm boasts several veterans of state government. For example, its president, H. Benson Dendy III, held the posts of secretary of the commonwealth and special assistant to the governor, while Philip Abraham was a special assistant and senior assistant for policy for two governors. Jeffrey A. Dixon

$237,400: Dixon & Company

Registered Saudi Agent: Jeffrey Dixon

Location: Chicago

Dixon is the son of the late U.S. senator Allen J. Dixon, a Democrat who represented Illinois for two terms. In addition to having served as a press secretary for Illinois House speaker Michael Madigan, Jeffrey Dixon has worked on a variety of political campaigns, including Rod Blagojevich for governor, Paul Simon for U.S. Senate, and Michael Dukakis for president. Shelbi Lewark

$162,640: Integrated Legislative Solutions

Registered Saudi Agents: Terry SnyderShelbi Lewark 

Location: Denver 

Working under the supervision of Terry Snyder, Shelbi Lewark helped recruit veterans to travel to Washington to lobby against JASTA. Several of them have told 28Pages.org that she failed to disclose Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the initiative.

To accomplish her assignment, Lewark sought the assistance of a local veteran, who in turn invited others to join the effort. Contrary to Lewark’s claim to 28Pages.org, the veteran says she did not inform him about Saudi Arabia’s role; nor did she advise him of the need to register with the Department of Justice as a Saudi agent.

Lewark is also a past vice-chair of the Denver GOP. Integrated Legislative Solutions appears to have no website and Terry Snyder has a very low internet profile. Jamie Miller

$131,600: Miller Strategies

Registered Saudi Agent: James “Jamie” Miller  

Location: Sarasota

Jamie Miller is a Republican strategist who worked on Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential campaign. He is also the directorof business competitiveness initiatives for the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County. Paul Young

$128,750: Novus Public Affairs

Registered Saudi Agents: Paul YoungBrennon M. Ward  

Location: Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Novus president Paul Young was an advisor to two presidential campaigns: Lindsey Graham’s in 2016 and Rick Perry’s in 2012.  He’s also a principal at another firm that supported Saudi Arabia’s anti-JASTA effort: Hynes Communications (see below, at $56,000).

Brennan Ward has worked in a variety of roles supporting Republican electoral efforts in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. Patrick Connolly

$106,925: Connolly Kuhl Group

Registered Saudi Agent: Patrick Connolly

Location: Saint Paul, Minnesota

Before launching Connolly Kuhl, Patrick Connolly supported Norm Coleman’s 2002 Senate campaign, and then became a Coleman staffer. Coleman has himself served as a lobbyist for Saudi Arabia, while simultaneously chairing one of the nation’s largest GOP PACs. Earlier, as a senator, he signed a letter condemning the kingdom for fostering extremism. Kim Schmett

$101,500: Schmett & Associates

Registered Saudi Agents: Kim D. SchmettConnie L. Schmett

Location: Des Moines, Iowa

Kim Schmett ran for U.S. Congress in 2008, but, according to the Iowa Republican, he “struggled at every facet of the campaign.” Connie Schmett is an experienced Republican activist who, among other things, organized an Iowa caucus in 2016 that drew roughly 1,000 attendees and appearances by four presidential candidates. Cylee Gutting

$86,400: Kyle Moyer & Company

Registered Saudi Agent: Cylee L. Gutting

Location: Scottsdale, Arizona

Firm president Kyle Moyer, who does not appear to have registered as a Saudi agent, managed a GOP campaign for the Arizona legislature.

Cylee Gutting recently left the firm to work for Greater Phoenix Leadership. Wes Farno

$76,800: 29:11 Strategies

Registered Saudi Agent: John “Wes” Farno

Location: Minster, Ohio

Wes Farno is chairman of the Auglaize County Republican Party, and previously worked for Advocacy Group, Inc (see the first entry above.)

Based in a small, rural village in western Ohio, his firm claims to have “values forged in the heartland.” The firm notes that “our world is full of misguided truths” and declares that it uses “faith-based principles” in providing its services, and avows to “hold honesty and integrity above all else.”

Whether Farno realizes it or not, the anti-JASTA argument he likely advanced on behalf of Saudi Arabia is based on a dishonest premise. South Dakota GOP Chair Daniel Lederman

$76,500: LS2 Group

Registered Saudi Agents: Daniel LedermanCharles W. Larson, JrTyler Gregory CampbellBruceanne PhillipsAshley Mae HuntJay HarterTamara Ibach

Location: Des Moine, Iowa

Daniel Lederman is chairman of the South Dakota Republican Party and a former South Dakota state senator. Charles Larson, Jr. is a former ambassador to Latvia in the George W. Bush administration, former state senator and representative. Army Reserve veteran. His father was director of law enforcement for Saudi Arabia’s “highway patrol project.” Campbell helped coordinate whistleblowing veteran Tim Cord’s lobbying trip. David Miner

$63,809: The Resources Group

Registered Saudi Agent: David Miner

Location: Cary, North Carolina

Miner is a former, six-term Republican representative in the North Carolina legislature, serving a district that includes Raleigh. Considered a moderate, he launched The Resources Group after being trounced in a 2004 primary challenge. Miner was a fundraiser for George W. Bush and Bob Dole. Patrick Hynes

$56,000: Hynes Communications

Registered Saudi Agent: Paul Young 

Location: Concord, New Hampshire

According to its website, this firm focuses on digital media and online communications strategy. Founder Patrick Hynes, who appears not to have registered as a Saudi agent, is a current advisor to the New Hampshire GOP, advised the presidential campaigns of Jeb Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney.

He also ran a website that heavily promoted the Swiftboat Veterans campaign against presidential candidate John Kerry, wrote a column for The American Spectator, and authored a book: In Defense of the Religious Right. (Given his hand in fighting JASTA for Saudi Arabia, the world eagerly awaits his sequel: In Defense of Salafism.)

This is one of two firms in the Saudi-Qorvis universe that Paul Young works for; see Novus Public Affairs at $128,750 above. Tim Mulloy

$54,550: Peritus Public Relations

Registered Saudi Agents: Kevin E. Borland, Tim Mulloy, Sarah Durand

Location: Birmingham, Alabama and Louisville, Kentucky

Durand was directly involved in recruiting veterans to travel to Washington to oppose JASTA. A veteran that Durand contacted told Daily Caller that Durand and others “literally never told me anything about what the trip was for. It kind of ticked me off. I was asking very specific questions. I asked who was paying for it and they wouldn’t tell me.” Sarah Durand

Durand was communications director for Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin and chief of staff for Kentucky first lady Glenna Bevin. Earlier, she was president of the Louisville Tea Party.

Mulloy and Borland recently launched MulloyBorland, LLC in Louisville, with Durand on the staff as well.

28Pages.org was unable to locate an initial FARA registration for Mulloy or Durand. However, both their names appear in a list of terminated Saudi-Qorvis registrations. J. Ballard Everett

$51,500: Ballard Everett & Associates

Registered Saudi Agent: J. Ballard Everett

Location: Raleigh, North Carolina

Everett has been involved in Republican politics for more than 40 years, according to his firm’s website (which appears to have been hijacked by someone offering the sale of cheap online prescription drugs). He also helped lead a conservative drive against the death penalty. Eric Eisenhammer

$48,650: Dauntless Communications

Registered Saudi Agent: Eric Eisenhammer

Location: Roseville, California

Daily Caller reported that Eisenhammer’s firm set up a booth at a Reno gun show in January that was used to recruit veterans and others to oppose JASTA, to include asking about their willingness to travel to Washington. There’s no indication that those who were pitched at the gun show were notified that the table was sponsored by Saudi Arabia. Cory Black

$40,050: Public Policy Solutions

Registered Saudi Agent: Cory Black

Location: Templeton, California

While the individuals selected for the Saudi-Qorvis campaign against JASTA skew overwhelmingly to the Republican side, Black worked on every Democratic campaign for the White House between 1992 and 2008. Frank Bickford

$31,750: Bickford Pacific Group 

Registered Saudi Agent: Frank Bickford

Location: Anchorage, Alaska

Bickford is a prominent Alaska lobbyist who managed John Lindauer’s 1998 GOP campaign for the governor’s office. (Subsequently charged with perjury and violation of campaign laws, Lindauer entered a no contest plea and was spared prison time.) Christopher West

$29,200: Jackson-West Consulting

Registered Saudi Agent: Christopher West

Location: Alexandria, Virginia.

Christopher West worked on the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign in Florida, in the offices of Virginia senator George Allen and of the Virginia attorney general. His partner, Charlie Jackson, started in media, including a position with The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. David Beightol

$25,313: Flywheel

Registered Saudi Agents: David BeightolBrian SailerBrandon PeckJames S. McCleskey

Location: Washington, DC

According to forms filed with Flywheel’s FARA registration, the firm was engaged to “conduct outreach to governors and lieutenant governors…educating them on the impacts and potential risks/threats that JASTA poses on their states’ business and economic interests, members of the military and national security.” Among its goals: to persuade governors to contact federal legislators, write opinion pieces and make public statements opposing JASTA. Kathie Summers Grice

$24,950: Eaton River Strategies

Registered Saudi Agent: Kathie Summers Grice

Location: Manchester, Maine

Summers Grice was a George W. Bush appointee to the U.S. Department of Labor and registered as a Saudi lobbyist last Oct. 9.

On Oct. 28, she tweeted: “I will never support a company or nation that oppresses human rights.” Weeks later, her firm received $24,950 for services rendered to the kingdom infamous for jailing dissidentsflogging journalistsoppressing religious minorities and mistreating women.

Amy Kaminski

$24,900: Duane Morris Government Strategies

Registered Saudi Agents: Amy KaminskiMichael PehurKathleen DelandAshley Henry Shook

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Per the firm’s website, Duane Morris “provides expertise in a variety of government affairs, public policy and grassroots lobbying initiatives, from monitoring, drafting, amending, passing and stopping legislation to public relations and crisis management to coalition building.” Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod

$23,300: Organized Karma

Registered Saudi Agents: Shannon Bilbray-AxelrodCharity StevensAida BlankenshipRonni Council

Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

In March, 28Pages.org was first to report that Bilbray-Axelrod signed on to represent Saudi Arabia just 25 days before being elected to the Nevada state assembly. Follow-on coverage by the Las-Vegas Review-Journal led a fellow legislator to consider filing a formal ethics complaint, inspired an op-ed calling for her resignation and ultimately prompted Bilbray-Axelrod to resign from Organized Karma.

Ronni Council recruited former Clark County commissioner Dario Herrera to help fight JASTA. However, according to Herrera, she never disclosed that Saudi Arabia was behind the effort. “I wouldn’t have touched it with a 10-foot pole if I’d known about the Saudis,” Herrera told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

$16,800: Lynne Schlosser

Location: St. Louis

Schlosser has an exceedingly low internet profile. According to her LinkedIn page, she previously worked in government relations for the American Cancer Society.

$15,750: Hubbell Communications

Registered Saudi Agents: Chris EdmondsTimothy F. Lussier

Location: Portland, Oregon

Edmonds has previously worked on the campaigns of U.S. senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon and New Jersey governor John Corzine, and was named Best Campaign Manager by Oregon House Democrats. Lussier was a field director for the Trump campaign. David H. Carroll

$15,600: Capitol Strategies

Registered Saudi Agent: David H. Carroll, Jr

Location: Annapolis, Maryland

Carroll is a founder of the firm.

Earlier in his career, he was director of the Democratic Business Council, a fundraising program that targeted corporations. Randy Hayden

$13,700: Creative Communications

Registered Saudi Agent: Randal L. Hayden

Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Randy Hayden is on the board of directors of Louisiana Clean Fuels and also does communications work for the Louisiana Propane Gas Association. Earlier, he won AP and UPI awards for broadcast journalism. Jon Bombardieri

$12,700: Cammarano Layton Bombardieri

Registered Saudi Agent: Jon R. Bombardieri

Location: Trenton, New Jersey

Bombardieri was executive director of the New Jersey General Assembly, and policy advisor to the New Jersey General Assembly Majority Office. Hollis “Chip” Felkel

$11,000: Felkel Group

Registered Saudi Agent: D. Hollis Felkel II

Location: South Carolina

Active in the Republican Party, Hollis “Chip” Felkel previously worked on the 2000 and 2004 Bush-Cheney campaigns and the 1988 Bush-Quayle campaign. Sheehan (l) and Kukowski

$7,900: Kristen Sheehan Consulting

Registered Saudi Agents: Kirsten KukowskiKirsten Kukowski

Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Together, Kukowski and Sheehan own KK & Co, a public relations, communications and fundraising firm. Kukowski served as national press secretary for the Republican Party for five years under chairman Reince Priebus. She was also communications director for Scott Walker’s 2016 presidential campaign, John McCain’s 2008 White House bid, and led communications for the 2016 national GOP convention.

Sheehan was political director for senator Norm Coleman’s 2008 campaign, which he lost to challenger Al Franken by 312 votes. Coleman went on to become a Saudi lobbyist as well. Joe Kuklis

$6,450: Wellington Strategies

Registered Saudi Agent: Joseph Kuklis  

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Kuklis was deputy state director for Senator Rick Santorum. In 2012, he merged a former venture, GSP Consulting, with Duane Morris Government Strategies (see $24,900 above).

Kuklis wrote a book about his lobbying experience called The Robin Hood of D.C. For his sequel, he may struggle to find a flattering literary metaphor for someone who takes money from rich Saudis royals in exchange for protecting them from 9/11 widows. Matt Resch

$6,350: Resch Strategies

Registered Saudi Agent: Matthew Resch

Location: Lansing, Michigan

Resch earlier worked in communications for the Michigan governor’s office and state legislature. Roy Lenardson

$6,350: Strategic Advocacy LLC

Registered Saudi Agent: Roy Lenardson

Location: Portland, Maine and Ave Maria, Florida   

Lenardson was chief of staff in the Maine senater, managed a gubernatorial campaign and worked at the Maine Heritage Policy Center. In 2014, he managed a controversial polling effort about Medicaid expansion in Maine. Critics called it a “push poll,” in which calls were meant to create and change opinions rather than collect them. Rick Abbruzzese

$3,750: KOFA Public Affairs

Registered Saudi Agent: Richard Abbruzzese

Location: Baltimore, Maryland

Abbruzzese was director of public affairs for Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, and also served as his deputy campaign manager. Weiss with Former GOP Chair Michael Steele

$150: Yocheved “Chevy” Weiss

Location: Baltimore, Maryland

There’s a rule in risk management: Don’t risk a lot for a little. Earning a grand total of $150 for her service to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Weiss seems to have profoundly violated that principle.

As 28Pages.org first reported in May, Weiss used Facebook to solicit others to join the anti-JASTA effort, but failed to include a disclosure of her Saudi sponsorship, which appears to be a violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Willful violations are subject to prison terms up of to five years and fines of up to $10,000. (40 images)

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