Lobbying via think tank

Jeet Heer notes that the NY Times ran an op-ed today written by two guys at two Saudi-funded think tanks, without mentioning the Saudi-funded part.

On Thursday, The New York Times published an oped headlined, “Trump is crude. But he’s right about Saudi Arabia.” Written by Michael Doran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and  Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the op-ed  offered a full throttle defense not just of Saudi Arabia but also, specifically, of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who the CIA believes ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Hudson Institute and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies – they sound so respectable and thinky, don’t they?

As The New York Times reported in May, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been using American think tanks as part of an extensive lobbying effort to shore up their support in America. Two key figures in this effort are George Nader, an advisor to the ruler of the UAE and Elliott Broidy, a major Republican donor and former deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Both the Hudson Institute and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies claim they reject any foreign funding. But as the Times reporting makes clear, Nader was able to use Broidy as a front-man for helping to fund the two think tanks in projects supporting Saudi and UAE policies:

Mr. Nader did, however, provide a $2.7 million payment to Mr. Broidy for “consulting, marketing and other advisory services rendered,” apparently to help pay for the cost of conferences at two Washington think tanks, the Hudson Institute and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, that featured heavy criticism of Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Th[e] publication of this op-ed mars the reputation of everyone involved. The Hudson Institute and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies seem more than ever to be mouthpieces for Arab autocrats. But The New York Times itself is also tainted by publishing this op ed. After all, their own reporting provides ample evidence for why these two think tanks should not be taken seriously. Yet the newspaper did nothing to inform readers of the op ed about the very salient connections between these think tanks and the Arab monarchies.

Conflict of interest at all?

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