Saudi Arabia already employs a team of U.S.-based lobbyists, lawyers, public relations professionals and even the chairman of one of the largest Super PACs. But now the Kingdom is hoping to buttress those efforts to influence American public opinion and policy by hiring politically connected tech talent.
The latest addition to the Saudi lobbying team, newly filed disclosure documents show, is two tech firms, Zignal Labs and Targeted Victory.
The contract provides $40,000 per month to Targeted Victory and $15,000 per month to Zignal Labs for “strategic advice and digital consulting services for the Royal Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” The contract, signed March 17, operates in tandem with Qorvis Communications, a controversial lobbying firm for Persian Gulf regimes such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Zignal Labs is a San Francisco-based start-up that specializes in “big data analytics, real-time media monitoring, and business intelligence.” The firm, according to VentureBeat, “lets its customers organize, filter, and otherwise shuffle around social media data to find mentions, ‘relevant conversations,’ [and] data on topics.” Campaign finance filings show that since August of 2014, the Republican National Committee has paid Zignal for its services. On that month, the company received $4,000 from the RNC.
Targeted Victory, a digital strategy firm co-founded by Zac Moffatt, the digital director for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, also specializes in harnessing the power of social media for its clients. On Friday, the company announced that it won two dozen awards for work in the last election cycle for GOP clients such as Joni Ernst for Senate and Greg Abbott for Governor.
As I pointed out in a post last year about Saudi Arabia’s growing influence in American politics, the Saudi government also funds the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, the Middle East Policy Council, the Middle East Institute and the Smithsonian Freer Museum of Art.
On Friday of last week, Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul called for private citizens and investors to boycott the Saudi regime over its human rights record. “I don’t think you can be a champion of women’s rights when you take money from a regime that punishes women who are raped,” said Paul, highlighting the Saudi donations to the Clinton Foundation.
Photo: Stefan Zaklin/Getty Images
First came the Never Trumpers, and I did not speak out, because they stood against Donald Trump. Then came the Lincoln Project, and I did not speak out, because their videos went viral. Then came the Chamber of Commerce, and by then it was too late.