Monday, July 2, 2018

Closer look at Qatar/ Brookings financial relationships and backdoor attempts to influence US foreign and US commercial policy

Qatar has lots of money and doesn’t hesitate to spread it around for its own purposes. If the goal of a foreign government is to influence American public opinion or to achieve the implementation of a particular policy, often commercial, then under the Foreign Agents Registration Law (FARA), the recipient must register as a foreign agent. It is not illegal to receive these funds, but it is illegal not to disclose and to register.

According to reports about Qatar’s recent attempts to influence conservative US Jewish leaders, at least two recipients of $50,000 of Qatari funds did register, “Catastrophic collapse of Qatar’s corrupt communal campaign,” Shmuely Boteach, “No Holds Barred,” June 26.

But instead of pointing the finger only at the recipients, let’s also examine what Qatar has been up to. For Qatar, these donations are small change, and its influence campaign in the US did not begin with Jewish organizations. Its sights are set on bigger fish. 

For example, in 2014, the New York Times reported that Qatar gave about $14,000,000 to the prestigious Brookings Institute. Its relationship with Brookings began in 2007, and the institute’s 2017 annual report shows that Qatar continues to be one of its five biggest donors.

As a result of the Times article, there were some suggestions that Brookings should register as a foreign agent. Its mission statement is to prepare studies of problems facing society, and many commentators were highly skeptical that these studies would be impartial if Qatar’s interests were involved. The conclusions of these studies can have a significant impact on policy decisions. Does the word “bias” come to mind?

However, Brookings issued a bland response that concluded that it was not required to register, and the matter was forgotten.
Maybe now is the time to look at all of the beneficiaries of Qatar’s largesse, to determine how successful it has been in influencing policy makers, and as a consequence, who has failed to register as a foreign agent.

Of course, Qatar is just one example of the many foreign governments seeking to purchase influence on policy decisions, and their activities are mainly under the radar screen. Unfortunately, it’s not clear if there is sufficient public will to confront this problem. 



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