Saudi Arabia has hired a public relations firm to recruit veterans to lobby against a bill that allows families of 9/11 victims to sue the country for its role in financing the attack.
The Saudi Arabian government is pampering veterans with luxury trips to Washington, DC to lobby in favor of an amendment that would gut an already signed law granting families of 9/11 victims the ability to sue the kingdom.
The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), overwhelmingly passed by Congress over President Obama’s veto in September, 2016, gave families of terrorist attack victims the ability to file civil suits against a foreign government if that government financed those attacks.
Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have introduced an amendment that would gut the law, deeming a foreign government liable for terrorist attacks only if “they knowingly engage with a terrorist organization directly or indirectly, including financing.”
Saudi Arabia has hired Qorvis MSLGROUP, the fourth largest public relations firm in the world, to lobby in favor of the McCain-Graham amendment.
Qorvis has registered two consultants to recruit veterans to directly lobby Congress in favor of the amendment: Eric Eisenhammer, founder and CEO of California-based Dauntless Communications, and Tennessee-based consultant Paul Stanley.
Dauntless Communications reportedly attempted to recruit veterans at a gun show held at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nevada on January 28 and 29, handing out pre-typed forms with the stated goal of finding veterans to “support and lobby for any amendment or rewrite to JASTA.”
In a registration statement filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1983, Eisenhammer described himself as a consultant with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the single foreign principal for whom he intends to render services.
Stanley, in his own registration statement, also listed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the single foreign principal for whom he intends to render services for a flat fee of $12,000.
Sarah Durand, the former chief of staff for Kentucky First Lady Glenna Bevin, is also recruiting veterans on behalf of Qorvis.
Malachias Gaskin, a combat veteran from Tennessee, said he received a vague forwarded email in January from a friend, also an ex-soldier, seeking veterans to lobby in Washington on behalf of the McCain-Graham amendment.
The initial email came from Durand, who provided few details when pressed by Gaskin. She offered to fly him to DC and pay for him to stay at the Trump International Hotel if he agreed to lobby for the amendment in person.
“There was going to be a dinner,” he said. “Then, we would be going to talk to Congress.”
After learning more about JASTA, Gaskin decided it was best if the law was not amended.
“I was like: this is why they aren’t giving me information,” he added. “When I start asking questions and you ignore it, I’m not going to do business with you.”
The veterans are being approached by people who are agents of Saudi Arabia, said Terry Strada, a widow and the national chair for the 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorists.
“They’re being duped,” she pointed out. “We believe Saudi Arabia is funding the flights and paying for hotels for these veterans.”
Reports from as early as November indicated Saudi Arabia was hiring a large number of prominent public relations firms to lobby in favor of repealing, or amending, JASTA.