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Former top Republican congressman registers as lobbyist for Saudi Arabia

Ed Royce registers to work with Saudi foreign ministry to 'facilitate meetings with federal government officials,' Politico reports
Then-Congressman Edward Royce speaks during a congressional hearing on 23 July 2014
Former congressman Ed Royce speaks during a congressional hearing on 23 July 2014 (AFP)
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Former US congressman Ed Royce has registered as a foreign agent for Saudi Arabia's foreign ministry, signalling a major boost in the kingdom's lobbying efforts in Washington, Politico reported.

A Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) filing was submitted with the Justice Department earlier this week, showing that Royce will represent the Saudi foreign ministry with the firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP.

According to the filing, Royce will "facilitate meetings with federal government officials either via phone or email on behalf of" the ministry.

Royce, who served as chair of the influential House Foreign Affairs Committee from 2013 to 2019, has nearly three decades of experience in Washington, having served as congressman for California's 39th district.

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The congressional committee is responsible for oversight on bills, programmes and investigations concerning US foreign policy, and holds influence in the way Washington conducts affairs with foreign states, including having a mandate to scrutinise deployments abroad, arms control, and international economic policy.

According to Politico, Royce has lobbied on behalf of several countries in the Middle East, including Egypt. But his decision to lobby for the Saudis is particularly noteworthy given the kingdom is going through a strenuous relationship with the Biden administration.

Since coming to office, US President Joe Biden has ended support for offensive operations in the Saudi-led coalition's war in Yemen, and his administration released an intelligence report that found Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had approved the 2018 killing of Middle East Eye columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Royce's work for Riyadh could provide a major improvement for Saudi Arabia's lobbying presence in Washington, given the former Republican congressman's time on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

In 2017, while chair of the committee, Royce gave a speech on the House floor calling for continued support for the Saudi-led coalition's war, The Intercept reported at the time.

Riyadh's lobbyist hiring spree

According to previous FARA filings, the lobbying firm Royce joined has represented the Saudi ministry since 2016 and was paid around $1.8m for its work on the kingdom's behalf over the past year alone, Politico reported.

A spokesperson for Brownstein said in an interview with Politico that there was nothing behind the timing of Royce joining the Saudi account, adding that his background and expertise as the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee was appealing to the client.

The Saudi embassy in Washington did not respond to Middle East Eye's request for comment regarding the filing.

Last December, Riyadh was reported to have gone on a lobbying hiring spree in anticipation of Biden entering office, signing on several lobbyists with ties to Republican members of Congress.

While enjoying warm ties with the former Trump administration, Saudi Arabia took a hit in its lobbying presence after the killing of Khashoggi, with several top lobbying firms cutting ties with the kingdom in 2018.

Since then the country has hired at least 16 lobbying firms in an attempt to clean its image regarding Khashoggi and the Yemen war while also boosting trade relations with the US, according to a report by Foreign Policy.