The Saudi Arabian government has just hired one of the most influential lobbying firms in the US that is headed by a top campaign fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic presidential candidate, a new report has revealed.
The Podesta Group, owned by veteran Washington lobbyist and Clinton campaign fundraiser Tony Podesta, will provide “public relations” and other services to the kingdom, according to Yahoo News.
The Saudi contract with the Podesta Group, which has close ties to the Democratic Party and the Obama administration, raises fresh questions about the influence that foreign governments and their lobbyists could have on Clinton’s presidential campaign.
The contract includes an initial payment of $200,000 last month and further unspecified payments due next year, according to documents recently filed with the US Justice Department Foreign Agents Registration Act office.
Saudi Arabia has longstanding ties to the Clintons. Riyadh is among the biggest donors to the Clinton Foundation, contributing between $10 million and $25 million, according to the foundation’s website.
The Saudi regime has come under increasing criticism over civilian casualties from its airstrikes against Yemen and a harsh crackdown on political dissidents inside the country.
The Saudis are being condemned by the United Nations over their airstrikes against the Houthi Ansarullah movement in Yemen, which have resulted in the deaths and injuries of thousands of innocent civilians, including children.
Some 7,000 people have reportedly lost their lives in the Saudi raids, and at least 14,000 people have been injured.
Yemen has been under Saudi attacks on a daily basis since March 26. The strikes are supposedly meant to undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement and restore power to fugitive former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh.
The Saudis are also facing criticism from human rights groups over their continued refusal to allow basic rights to women as well as for their suppression of political dissidents.