The Blog

Schumer Calls Rahm, Concern Grows About Saudi Lobby

1:42 PM, Feb 27, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Eli Lake does some more work on the Chas Freeman story in today's Washington Times:

Since 1997, Mr. Freeman has been president of the Middle East Policy Council (MEPC), a Washington think tank. In 2007, he accepted a $1 million donation from Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud that, according to a press release at the time, was meant for "future projects" for the council.

MEPC Vice President Anne Joyce said the donation was intended to fund an endowment for the council, which, she said, aims to further U.S.-Arab relations and widen the range of debate in Washington from what the group sees as an excessively pro-Israel focus.

Let's be clear about what this $1 million sum was for: the funding of a Saudi lobby that could "widen the range of debate," i.e. counter the Israel Lobby. Except in this case, unlike AIPAC which gets its funding from American citizens, the money comes directly from the Saudi regime.

The upshot is that the people who are most strident in their denunciation of the "Israel Lobby" are, without any hesitation, lining up behind a man who was a pawn of the Saudi Lobby. The result will be that every single intelligence product produced by the NIC will be fairly questioned by critics as having been tainted by Freeman's debts to the Saudis -- debts he has paid off over the last decade by making laughable claims in defense of Saudi Arabia.

Republicans are concerned -- Lake quotes Minority Whip Eric Cantor as saying Freeman's past associations "are deeply alarming" and reports that Rep. Mark Kirk is urging the inspector general to review the appointment -- but so are Democrats. THE WEEKLY STANDARD has learned that Senator Charles Schumer called Rahm Emanuel earlier this week to express his concern about the appointment.

And while Freeman's appointment is unlikely to be revoked, this story may yet have legs. Freeman has yet to file his financial disclosure forms. He has one month to do so. It will be interesting to see just how dependent Freeman has been on Saudi largess these past few years.