LONDON: A US lobbyist in 2017 received nearly $4 million from a PR firm with apparent links to the Qatari government, in what one analyst said was an ongoing attempt by Doha to curry favor in Washington.
Stonington Strategies, which is run by a well-known pro-Qatar lobbyist, received two payments for $1.95 million in late 2017 from a company called Blue Fort Public Relations, according to a Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) filing in the US.
Over the course of the six-month contract, Stonington Strategies “made senior level introductions, arranged trips, and fostered dialogue between American and Qatari companies,” the filing — seen by Arab News — shows. The document lists 15 US business executives consulted as part of the deal.
The agreement was signed by Nick Muzin, and involved sub-payments totaling $2.1 million to a company called Lexington Strategies, which is run by fellow lobbyist Joey Allaham.
The two men had previously attracted attention for their “unconventional” lobbying in the US on behalf of Doha, Mother Jones magazine reported.
There would be “no reason” for Muzin to register the six-month contract under the FARA legislation unless he believed that the state of Qatar could be considered a beneficiary of the lobbying work, the magazine noted.
While lobbying is an acceptably activity, one analyst said that Qatar has often used “illegitimate” means in its attempts to win favor globally.
The latest lobbying attempts follow accusations made by several of Doha’s Arabian Gulf neighbors, which claim that Qatar funds terror and extremist groups globally.
“Qatar has been using many vehicles over the past 20 years to lobby for its own causes and those of its allies, mostly … extremists,” said Ghanem Nuseibeh, founder of Cornerstone Global, a management consultancy focused on the Middle East.
“Qatar uses both its own established media channels as well as influencing through various means, often illegitimate (and) breaking local laws in countries it operates.
“Qatar is known to have used illegal hacking as well as propagating fake news to undermine whom it perceives as risks to its activities.”