With all of this talk about Russia’s interference in our elections, it is worth wondering what other nations are trying to influence our votes.
Consider the case of Qatar, a gas-rich peninsula that is home to a U.S. air base. A surprising number of former Senate and White House aides, both Democrats and Republicans, have registered as paid lobbyists for Qatar — and some of them are also directing or influencing 2018 congressional midterm campaigns.
New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez is fighting an unexpectedly tight contest with his GOP rival. His campaign manager, Michael Soliman, receives $155,000 per month from Qatar through his lobbying firm, Mercucry Public Affairs, according to U.S. Senate filings. If the Democrats win control of the Senate, Menendez will be chairman of the U.S. Senate’s powerful Foreign Relations Committee. What will he owe Qatar in return?
Senator Ted Cruz, a very influential Republican from Texas, also has a former staffer in the pay of Qatar. Nick Muzin, Cruz’s deputy chief of staff, was collecting $300,000 per month from Qatar — half for subcontractors. Muzin has said in a tweet that his firm is no longer doing business with the gas-rich peninsula. Still, the Qataris have made a sizeable investment.
And here is an interesting coincidence: Neither of these senators has publicly criticized Qatar for its support for Hamas, officially designated as a “terrorist group” by the State Department; or its funding of the Muslim Brotherhood; or the use of its state-run broadcaster, al Jazeera, to normalize the views of extremists by giving them hours and hours of airtime.
Just this past week, Qatar’s emir announced that he would invest $15 billion in Turkey, specifically to blunt the force of President Trump’s sanctions meant to free Andrew Brunson, an American pastor held on hard-to-believe charges that he is part of a Mormon-CIA plot to topple Turkey’s elected government. (Brunson, who proclaims his innocence, is not Mormon and has no CIA ties.)
Through financial business ties, Qatar has even indirectly recruited the most powerful of all influencers: the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Kushner’s personal lawyer is Abbe Lowell, whose other clients include Jamal Benomar — a former U.N. official who has taken millions from Qatar.
Muzin and Benomar have also spent Qatar’s millions with U.S. Jewish groups, including buying a table at the Zionist Organization of America dinner for a reported $100,000.
Finally, Qatar is offering consulting deals to prominent Republicans close the Trump White House, including former New York Mayor Rudy Guliani and former U.S. Attorneys General Michael Mukasey and Eric Holder. Compensation in each case seems to be in excess of $100,000 per month.
There is even talk that former Trump Campaign CEO Stephen Bannon has been offered money from Qatar, according to a case recently filed in Los Angeles federal court. There is no reason to believe that Bannon took the tainted funds, but the claim underlines Qatar’s ambitious reach.
With all of this money being lavished on Washington insiders (including Menendez), it is worth asking: What is Qatar expecting in return?
For senators seeking reelection, they should ask their former staffers what their foreign client’s agenda is. And reporters and voters, it is high time to wonder why a small, wealthy nation is so interested in cozying up to our elected officials. There may well be other forms of collusion beyond the Russian variety.
Niger Innis is the Chairman of the Congress For Racial Equality.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.