Greg Nash

Saudi Arabia has hired The McKeon Group, a lobbying firm run by former Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), as it fights to stop lawsuits against the country over the 9/11 attacks.

Glover Park Group, which was already working for the Saudis, brought McKeon on board to help with “communications and government relations and support.” The duration of the sub-contract and the fees have not been established.

McKeon served in Congress from 1993 to 2014 and rose to chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

The Saudi Arabian government has been ramping up its lobbying and PR operation ever since Congress passed legislation that would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue them. The Justice Against Sponsors of Terror Act (JASTA) survived a veto by President Obama and became law in September.

There are now 17 firms, entities and individuals lobbying or doing public relations work on behalf of the Saudi Arabian government. Other new additions include Fahad Nazer, a former political analyst at the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington, and in-house lobbyists at Aramco Affiliated Services Company, the U.S. subsidiary of the Saudi government-owned oil company.

Earlier this month, Hohlt Group Global and Flywheel Government Solutions, which is operating through PR giant MSLGroup, also joined Saudia Arabia’s lobbying roster. 

Some lawmakers on Capitol Hill have discussed changing JASTA. The Obama administration has warned that the law could put the United States at risk in courts abroad, while Saudi Arabia has said the law would weaken sovereign immunity.

Prior to passage of the law, families of terrorist attack victims could only sue governments thought to be responsible if the country was a State Department-designated sponsor of terrorism. Saudi Arabia does not have that designation.

President-elect Donald Trump has come out in explicit support of JASTA, calling Obama’s veto “shameful and will go down as one of the low points of his presidency.”

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 hailed from Saudi Arabia. Critics have long suspected that the kingdom’s government may have either directly or indirectly supported the attacks, something the Saudis vehemently deny. Several investigations by the U.S. government have been unable to verify ties between the Saudi government and the attackers.

Other K Street firms working for Saudi Arabia include the Podesta Group, BGR Group, King & Spalding, Squire Patton Boggs, Hogan Lovells, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and DLA Piper.

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