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Qatar brings on Republican lawmakers for new GOP push

Holland and Knight’s new contract says that Republicans on Capitol Hill will be the focus of the lobbying.

Qatar is bringing on two Republican ex-lawmakers for the express purpose of lobbying their former GOP colleagues amid persistent right-wing criticism of Doha as a friend of Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The $35,000-per-month contract with Holland and Knight, obtained exclusively by Al-Monitor, is set to begin on March 1 and has no expiration date. It specifically names former Rep. Tom Davis, a Republican who represented Virginia, as being “responsible for the delivery of services with this contract.” Davis and Tom Reynolds, a Republican who represented New York, have both registered to work on the account.

“The focus of our representation will be Republican members of the US House and Senate but will include other areas as assigned,” reads the contract.

A Holland and Knight spokesman told Al-Monitor, “We’ll be focusing on educating members of Congress on Qatar’s strategic importance to the US diplomatically, economically and militarily.” This is Qatar’s first new lobbying hire of 2020. Holland and Knight will work as a subcontractor for Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, which has a $230,000-per-month contract with Qatar.

The two ex-congressmen are the only former Republicans currently registered to lobby for Qatar, joining Democrats Ron Klink of Pennsylvania, Jim Moran of Virginia and Bart Stupak of Michigan. With their addition, Qatar now has more former lawmakers lobbying for it than its Gulf rivals Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have used their multi-million-dollar lobbying operations to defend their three-year-old blockade against Qatar and press the United States to force Al Jazeera to register as a foreign agent of Doha.

The new hires notably come less than a month after the UAE brought on its first ex-lawmaker, former House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, to lobby on “export controls and sanctions, trade policies, human rights, foreign and defense policies, foreign media registration and strengthening bilateral relations and regional security.” Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, was a sharp critic of Qatar throughout her time in the House and has continued to publicly lambaste Doha since retiring in 2018.

Holland and Knight's $35,000-per-month contract with Qatar says that the firm's focus will be Republican lawmakers.

Davis and Reynolds both previously served as back-to-back chairmen of the influential National Republican Congressional Committee, tasked with helping elect Republicans to the House of Representatives. Davis also served as chairman of the investigative House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform from 2003 to 2007.

Ben Freeman, the director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center for International Policy, said former members of Congress are more likely to get their foot in the door on Capitol Hill.

“If you hire a congressman to represent you, that congressman is much more likely to have their former colleagues open their doors, answer their phone calls and grant meetings,” Freeman said. After that happens, he added, “then it’s just easier for them to make their pitch on behalf of one of these foreign powers.”

Jodi Richardson, a former aide to Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., is also registered to lobby on the Holland and Knight account alongside Davis and Reynolds. Her former boss notably signed a Republican letter last year asking the Justice Department why it had not asked Al Jazeera to register as a foreign agent for Qatar.

Richardson, Davis and Reynolds all also work on Holland and Knight’s $1 million contract with Pakistan, signed in July.

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