Lawmaker-turned-Saudi lobbyist raises eyebrows with campaign donations


Many lobbyists ditched Saudi Arabia after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, but several clients are still sticking with their lucrative patron. And at least one of those lobbyists met with a key Senate staffer at a lawmaker's birthday party the same day his firm donated to the lawmaker’s campaign.

Lobbying disclosure and Federal Election Commission forms reviewed by Al-Monitor reveal that former Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., donated $1,000 in unused campaign funds to the campaign for Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe, R-Okla. — the same day a McKeon associate met an Inhofe staffer on behalf of the Saudis. The Saudis paid McKeon $450,000 three days after Khashoggi’s death, according to lobbying disclosures for the six months through Nov. 30.

The California Republican, who now heads the McKeon Group lobbying firm just outside Washington, told Al-Monitor that the donation was unrelated, although the payment occurred on the same day.


But there is a movement afoot to bar ex-lawmakers and former candidates from using leftover campaign funds to lobby. The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center is petitioning the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to amend regulations to bar politicians from using personal campaign funds for lobbying and other expenses.

“After receiving our petition, the FEC announced in April that it will begin reviewing campaign disclosure reports to determine whether former candidates and officeholders are illegally using leftover campaign money for personal purposes,” Corey Goldstone, a spokesman for the Campaign Legal Center, told Al-Monitor.

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