Today, senators delivered a historic blow to the country’s relationship with ally Saudi Arabia, a country whose leadership has committed notable human rights violations, by voting to move forward a resolution that would end all U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
But at least five of the Republican Senators who voted against the bill have received funding from lobbyists working for Saudi Arabia, a fact that illustrates how the kingdom uses its vast wealth to influence U.S. foreign policy.
Republican Senators Roy Blunt of Missouri, John Boozman of Arkansas, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Mike Crapo of Idaho, and Tim Scott of South Carolina received financial contributions from lobbying firms that worked for Saudi Arabia, according to a report by the Center for International Policy released last month.
The report names Blunt as one of the top 10 recipients of campaign contributions from firms representing Saudi Arabia in 2017, along with Democratic lawmakers like Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Robert Menendez of New Jersey. Blunt’s campaign allegedly received $19,250 in campaign contributions from Saudi-linked firms last year.
enators Boozman and Crapo received $1,000 contributions from Squire Patton Boggs PAC, which was working for Saudi Arabia at the time, according to the report. And Boozman, Crapo, Burr and Scott all allegedly received donations of around $2,000 on days when they were contacted by Saudi lobbyists.
None of the senators immediately responded to requests for comment.
Saudi Arabia spent around $27 million on lobbying in 2017, according to some estimates. Department of Justice filings show that the Saudi government has spent almost $7 million on foreign agents in 2018.
The killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey has put unprecedented pressure on the traditionally friendly relationship between the two countries and helped bolster efforts to stop the Saudi-led war, which has led to a cholera outbreak in Yemen and one of the largest famines in decades. Some lobbying firms, such as the Glover Park Group and BRG Group, have dropped their Saudi clients in the wake of the backlash over Khashoggi’s killing.
Senators voted 63 in favor and 37 against to move the resolution forward on Tuesday. The vote was a procedural step that will see the bill move forward in the Senate, but the House of Representatives has yet to act on Yemen.