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Saudi Arabia hires PR muscle in Washington DC Open in fullscreen

Robert Bain

Saudi Arabia hires PR muscle in Washington DC

The Saudi embassy in Washington DC has been busy lately [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 October, 2015

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Blog: Riyadh has reportedly retained a major PR firm and a well-connected lobby group to aid its promotional efforts in the US.

Saudi Arabia is bolstering its political heft in Washington DC, retaining the services of a major PR firm and a well-connected lobbying group, the Intercept, a US-based investigative journalism website, reported this week.

According to foreign lobbying disclosure documents for the month of September, the oil-rich kingdom signed a deal with Edelman, the largest private PR company in the world, and the Podesta Group, a lobby firm close to the Democratic party and the Obama administration.

John Podesta, the brother of the Podesta Group's owner, Tony Podesta, is chairman of Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential bid.

The firm's previous clients have included deposed former president of Egypt Hosni Mubarak and former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

This expansion in Saudi Arabia's public relations heft comes at a time when the kingdom has had a run of bad press in the international media


It has come under contract with the Center for Studies and Media Affairs at the Saudi Royal Court for a $200,000 "public relations engagement", according to EverythingPR, an industry website.

Edelman has a history with Saudi Arabia, including ongoing work to promote "the kingdom's interests among key groups within the world body and to UN observers".

Its latest contract is a $16,500 project to "engage with opinion influencers, establish media engagement opportunities for principal, and assist in opinion editorial placement" for the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, the PR site reported.

The Intercept reported that over the past year the Saudi Embassy in Washington DC had retained the services of several other powerful and well-connected firms.

In March, it reportedly instructed two powerful international law firms, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and DLA Piper, understood to be the 12th-largest donor to President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election campaign and the fifth-largest donor thus far to Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential bid.

DLA Piper employs what the Intercept described as "a small army" of well-connected former government officials.

In the same month, the kingdom also retained two firms that specialise in analysis for political clients, the Zignal Group and Targeted Victory, which worked for Mitt Romney's failed 2012 presidential run.

This expansion in Saudi Arabia's public relations heft comes at a time when the kingdom has had a run of bad press in the international media, over child executions, the human cost of the war on Yemen, and the flogging of Saudi blogger Raif al-Badawi.

Close allies of Saudi Arabia have also come under pressure for their ties to the kingdom.

This international scrutiny comes at a time when Saudi Arabia is also facing a series of unprecedented regional and international challenges, including a huge fall in oil prices, regional rivalry with Iran, a proxy war in Syria and the war in Yemen, in which Saudi forces are directly engaged.

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