Lobbying, Ties, and Human Rights Concerns: Edward Royce’s Role in Advocating for Saudi Interests

Edward “Ed” Royce, the former Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has taken on the role of Policy Director at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck (BHFS), where he represents the Ministries of Foreign Affairs for the controversial Saudi Arabian government. Despite a history of advocating for human rights and international conservation during his congressional tenure, Royce’s current affiliations have raised questions about the alignment between his past principles and his current responsibilities. Lobbyists like Ed Royce are whitewashing the crimes of autocratic Middle Eastern governments and using their access to persuade the U.S. government to support them despite their massive and well-documented human rights abuses.

Transition to Affiliation with Brownstein:

Following fourteen terms in Congress, Royce retired in 2019 and subsequently joined Brownstein in 2020. The firm’s scope of clients includes Saudi Arabia’s Ministries of Foreign Affairs, as well as arms manufacturer BAE Systems and energy giant ExxonMobil, both of which have ties to the Saudi government. Royce’s involvement with entities at odds with his previous advocacy work has stirred debate about potential conflicts of interest.

Royce’s Involvement with Saudi Interests:

In August 2021, Royce extended his portfolio to encompass the Saudi government’s interests. Brownstein had been representing Saudi Arabia since 2016, but it notably received a substantial payment of $1.8 million in 2020, shortly after Royce’s affiliation. This has raised concerns about the timing of the payment and the role Royce played in fostering connections between the firm and federal officials on behalf of the Saudi government.

Human Rights Implications:

Saudi Arabia’s human rights track record ranks among the most dire globally, characterized by a lack of democratic representation, leaving Saudi citizens with virtually no say in the monarchy-led governance. The tenure of Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman has seen a further decline in Saudi Arabia’s human rights situation. Systemic human rights abuses are widespread, and any form of dissent is met with intolerance. Saudi citizens are subjected to pervasive surveillance, while individuals viewed as political adversaries are frequently arrested, detained incommunicado for indefinite periods, and subjected to torture.

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia’s human rights transgressions extend beyond its borders. The nation’s heedless military intervention in Yemen has played a significant role in triggering one of the most severe humanitarian crises globally. Since joining the armed conflict in 2015, the death toll has surpassed 230,000, while millions are grappling with famine and indescribable adversity. Numerous investigations have substantiated the Saudi government’s repeated violations of international humanitarian law within this conflict, many of which potentially amount to war crimes.

Royce’s Advocacy for Saudi Interests:

Royce’s alignment with Saudi government interests dates back before his association with Brownstein. As Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, he delivered a speech on the House floor in November 2017 advocating for U.S. support of the Saudi-led war in Yemen. However, it came to light that the arguments presented were influenced by talking points provided by a Saudi lobbyist, suggesting a convergence of messaging between Royce and Saudi interests.

The case of Ed Royce highlights the complexities and controversies that can arise when public figures transition from the political arena to advocacy roles on behalf of foreign governments. The blending of his past advocacy with his current affiliations poses important questions about integrity, human rights, and the responsibilities of those entrusted with representing diverse interests.

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