The Podesta Group

Profile: The Podesta Group

1- Name of NGO:

The Podesta Group

2- Brief & Mission:

The Podesta Group, established in 1988 by siblings John and Tony Podesta and formerly recognized as Podesta Associates, podesta.com, and PodestaMattoon, operated as a lobbying and public affairs organization situated in Washington, D.C. Recent disclosures indicate that the Podesta Group engaged in lobbying activities on behalf of Saudi Arabia, advocating for and representing its interests within the Washington area. 

3- Bias, Agenda & Motivation:

In recent years, there has been an extraordinary effort by Saudi lobbyists to emphasize the connections between Saudi Arabia and the United States, including their military endeavors. However, these efforts have been met with criticism due to the civilian casualties resulting from their actions in Yemen. The relationship between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. deteriorated during the tenure of President Barack Obama, reaching a low point in September when Congress passed a law allowing 9/11 victims’ relatives to sue the Saudi government. Furthermore, the Saudi government utilized the Podesta Group as a tool to advance its interests in the USA. Podesta Group, a notable lobbying firm associated with the Democratic Party, distributed pro-Saudi material to numerous Congressional staffers and experts specializing in the Middle East.

4- Links to Governments/Political Agenda:

The Saudi government enlisted the services of the firm to accomplish political goals within Washington, highlighting a distinct connection between the Saudi monarchy and the mentioned company.

5- Sources of Funding:

The collaboration between Podesta and Saudi Arabia did not come without a substantial sum. Saudi Arabia entered into an annual contract with the Podesta Group, paying a significant amount of $1.7 million.

6- Activities:

For a significant period, the Saudi government has heavily depended on an array of Washington lobbyists, allocating millions of dollars annually to maintain multiple lobbying agreements. David Andrew Weinberg, a Saudi specialist at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former Congressional aide, explained, “When the Saudi lobbyists approach me to promote the Saudi perspective, they advise against consulting the embassy, as they lack current insights. Instead, they encourage dialogue with them.”

In a series of occurrences since March, the Podesta Group, a prominent lobbying firm associated with the Democratic Party, distributed pro-Saudi content to numerous Congressional staffers and experts specializing in the Middle East. This comprehensive public relations campaign encompassed senior Saudi officials’ opinion pieces, a 15-page transcript of an interview with the Saudi defense minister, and a biography of Prince Khalid bin Salman, the new Saudi ambassador to the US, as evidenced by lobbying records.

Notably, these emails were disseminated shortly after the Saudi Royal Court renewed its annual contract of $1.7 million with the Podesta Group. This marked the first instance where the Podesta Group undertook a mass communication initiative on behalf of its Saudi client, as indicated by the records.

7- NGO Leadership:

Kimberley Fritts  is currently serving as CEO of Podesta group. 

8- Controversy:

The engagement of Western PR firms by Saudi Arabia predates both the Yemen conflict and the Jamal Khashoggi murder. Persistent concerns have arisen regarding Riyadh’s use of PR agencies in London and Washington to shift attention away from its human rights transgressions. Within this framework, the Podesta Group is seen as a tool employed by the Saudi government to advance its specific objectives.

9- Contact Details:

  • Website:https://www.podesta.com
  • Address:USA
  • Email: podesta@podesta.com

10- Classification/Blacklist:

By involving itself in lobbying activities for governments, government-related entities, state-sponsored investment funds, or individuals associated with the Saudi Arabian administration that is accountable for serious wrongdoings such as war crimes, torture, arbitrary detentions, and extrajudicial executions, Podesta plays a role in sustaining these misconducts. Consequently, the firm’s connections with the Saudi government have resulted in its recognition as an entity of concern and inclusion on a watchlist.

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