Dubai: Qatar has hired seven American lobbying firms and spent nearly $5 million (Dh18.35 million) on US lobbying and media campaigns since June to try to win over hearts and minds in its dispute with Arab countries.
On June 5, fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member countries Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE as well as Egypt severed their relations with Qatar accusing it of harbouring extremists and funding terrorism.
According to Open Secrets, a centre for responsive politics, two days after the boycott, Qatar turned to Washington for lobbying.
“First, they hired Ashcroft Law Firm, cofounded by former US Attorney General John Ashcroft and then a second law firm — McDermott, Will & Emory — three weeks later. In late August, Qatar hired a third DC law firm, Stonington Strategies, then a fourth, Nelson Mullins, in September,” the site said.
“Last summer, it also hired Avenue Strategies Global, former Trump campaign manager Corey Leandowski’s lobbying firm, according to Politico. Art Estopinan, recently hired as a partner at Avenue Strategies Global and one of the lobbyists for Qatar, was formerly Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s chief of staff. Qatar has also turned to advertising firms, including the Washington DC-based Audience Partners Worldwide.”
Most recently, Qatar’s communications office hired the PR and lobbying firm BlueFront Strategies to create what would be the country’s most ambitious media campaign denouncing the isolation. The campaign was designed to target the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in September, the news site added.
BlueFront’s services for Qatar from September 12 to October 1 overlapped with the UN’s meeting.
“In total, the firm’s compensation for the campaign was $100,000. Since June, Qatar has spent around $4.7 million on new contracts for US influence campaigns. Between 2012 and June 2017, Qatar spent around $6.5 million on new contracts.”
The site said its information came from the Centre for Responsive Politics’ Foreign Lobby Watch database, which curates the public forms companies representing foreign powers must file with the Department of Justice under the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
Qatar’s underlying goal was likely to target powerful decision-makers attending the General Assembly, including Trump. The campaign coincided with Qatari Emir Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani’s speech and his meeting with the president at the UN on September 19.
Outlines BlueFront submitted under FARA show plans for adverts across multiple platforms. Each advert contains a statement noting that Qatar’s government communications office paid for it, or provides a link to the campaign’s website where this statement is displayed.