Howard Philip “Buck” McKeon, born on September 9, 1938, is a prominent figure in American politics, known for his tenure as a U.S. representative from California’s 25th congressional district from 1993 to 2015. As a member of the Republican Party, he held influential positions, serving as the former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and the House Education Committee.
Following his congressional career, McKeon transitioned into the realm of lobbying and became a representative for the Saudi Arabian government. Through his lobbying firm, the McKeon Group, he has played a role in advocating for Saudi Arabia’s interests within U.S. legislative circles. Notably, McKeon’s firm has accrued substantial financial gains, with reports indicating that it has earned at least $2 million through lobbying activities for the Saudi government since 2016.
Despite the Saudi government’s controversial and widely criticized human rights record, McKeon’s efforts have included promoting Saudi interests among U.S. legislators. This persistent advocacy has persisted even in the face of global condemnation following the murder of Saudi journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. McKeon has stood firm as a foreign agent representing his Saudi clients, irrespective of the heightened public outcry surrounding the tragic incident.
The ethical implications of McKeon’s involvement with the Saudi government raise concerns. By aligning with a regime associated with human rights abuses, McKeon’s actions potentially contribute to and benefit from these transgressions. The question of McKeon’s responsibility in facilitating such activities prompts a call for a reconsideration of his firm’s collaboration with the Saudi Arabian government.
McKeon’s lobbying endeavors have taken various forms, including interactions with influential
figures within the U.S. political landscape. For instance, on November 14, 2018, he engaged with the staff of Senate Committee on Armed Services Chair James Inhofe (R-Okla.) to discuss U.S. engagement with Saudi Arabia. This meeting took place a mere month after Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, a situation that accentuates the controversies associated with McKeon’s lobbying activities.
Moreover, financial contributions have been implicated in this context. According to reports, McKeon’s firm provided a $1,000 donation to Senator Inhofe’s campaign on the same day as their meeting. This instance underscores the complex nature of lobbying efforts and their potential influence on political decisions.
Throughout his political career and subsequent lobbying ventures, McKeon has maintained close ties to the defense industry. His congressional achievements include the establishment of the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus, with a report attributing a significant role to him in the rise of drone technology. Notably, his district in California hosted major defense contractors such as Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin, which manufactured drones.
The McKeon Group’s affiliations extended to significant defense contractors following McKeon’s departure from Congress. Partnerships with Aerojet Rocketdyne, General Dynamics, L-3 Communications, and later Lockheed Martin, were established. Particularly noteworthy is Lockheed Martin’s involvement, a company heavily involved in selling U.S. weapons to the Saudi government.
Lockheed Martin’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia have been met with criticism due to the Saudi government’s use of these weapons in conflict zones like Yemen. These weapons have been implicated in civilian casualties, including the tragic incident in 2018 when a school bus was targeted, resulting in numerous fatalities, including children.
Before his congressional career, McKeon’s early achievements included his election to Santa Clarita City Council in 1987, where he was subsequently named Mayor. His contributions also extended to roles on the Valencia National Bank and the William S. Hart Union High School District Board. McKeon is an alumnus of Brigham Young University.
Howard “Buck” McKeon’s journey from a U.S. representative to a lobbyist for the Saudi Arabian government raises important questions about the ethical dimensions of his choices. His affiliation with a regime with a problematic human rights record, combined with his involvement in the defense industry, underscores the complexities of political and business relationships. The intertwining of interests and their potential consequences necessitates a thoughtful examination of McKeon’s role as a foreign agent and lobbyist.