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Qatar hosted six Congressional Democrats

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Qatar hosted six Congressional Democrats

John Rossomando

Qatar’s Washington embassy paid for six congressional Democrats to visit Doha last December, Al-Monitor reported Friday. U.S. Reps. Ami Bera, D-Calif., Andre Carson, D-Ind., and Dan Kildee, D-Mich., noted the payment in financial disclosure forms.

The office of U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, D-N.J., told Al-Monitor it would amend its disclosure form to include the Qatari payment. U.S. Rep. James Himes, D-Conn., failed to disclose the trip. Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., received an extension until August to file his disclosure. Ben Smith of Buzzfeed, which co-sponsored the Doha Forum first acknowledged the trip in a Dec. 15 tweet.

Speakers at the Doha Forum included President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law, and current Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak; Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif; and Mutlaq al-Qahtani, who told the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) last year that Hamas was not a terrorist organization. Al-Qahtani serves as Qatar’s counterterrorism envoy.

Carson and Himes sit on the House Intelligence Committee. Bera serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Norcross is on to the House Armed Services Committee.

At the forum, the officials met with Qatar’s deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs. Qatar hosts the Abu Udeid Air Base, which is home to the forward headquarters of U.S. Central Command and the headquarters of the U.S. Air Force Central Command.

Qatar is one of the biggest funders of the Muslim Brotherhood and is home to radical Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, who has been a major force in the movement for decades. Qatari money has funded numerous terrorist groups including Hamas and al-Qaida.

This is but one example of Qatar’s effort to buy power and influence in Washington. It spent nearly $5 million in 2017 on three Washington lobby firms seeking to improve its image. Qatari entities, including Barzan Holdings, Qatar Tourism Authority, Education Above All Foundation and Qatari businessman Hassan bin Ali spent $13 million overall for all of 2017 on behalf of the emirate, according to the watchdog site Open Secrets. They spent $9.3 million in 2018.

Pro-Qatari lobbying has been bipartisan. The Tablet reported in December that Nick Muzin, a former senior staffer for Republican Sens. Tim Scott and Ted Cruz became a lobbyist for Qatar.

Qatar also funds programs at the Brookings Institution and at U.S. colleges and universities, including Georgetown and Northwestern. Those schools have campuses in Doha and receive funding from the Qatar Foundation, which is controlled by the emirate’s royal family.

Qatar’s failure renounce terrorism funding for terrorism makes this lobbying campaign particularly troubling.

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