Freedom Forward joins Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) and 11 other organizations to urge Congress to sever ties with former Rep. Ed Royce, a lobbyist for the dictatorships of Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

The full text of the letter:

Dear Member of Congress,

We write to you as a coalition of organizations dedicated to advancing human rights and ethical business practices. In light of your co-sponsorship of HR1/S1, “For the People Act of 2021,” we are writing to raise concerns about lobbyists who continue to advocate on behalf of abusive governments.Pending the passage of this bill, we write to request that you publicly pledge not to communicate with lobbyists for systematically abusive governments in the Middle East and North Africa. 

We are currently focusing on the work of former congressman Ed Royce of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck (BHFS), who represents the governments of Egypt and Saudi Arabia and hoping to ensure that members of Congress will agree not to meet with him until his firm ends its representation of these governments. You can read a full profile detailing Ed Royce’s work with these two governments by visiting the Lobbyist Hall of Shame website here.

Although H.R.1/S.1 has stalled in Congress, we urge you to support its provisions especially those pertaining to barring lobbying for foreign governments that have committed (GVHRs). Meanwhile, we urge you to refrain from meeting with any lobbyists who represent abusive governments and to create a public list of these governments and include Egypt and Saudi Arabia on it.

Ed Royce currently works as a Policy Director for BHFS. Royce wielded his political influence to schedule briefings and calls for the Egyptian Ministry and for the Egyptian Ambassador to the United States Motaz Zahran to meet with members of congress and their staffs. Securing this access to lawmakers is crucial to the Egyptian government’s efforts to whitewash its abusive tactics and obscure Egypt’s ongoing human rights crisis. This high-level access is also crucial to the Saudi government, and Royce added the firm’s Saudi file to his portfolio in August 2021. Brownstein has represented the Saudi government since 2016, including a $1.8 million payment in 2020, the year that Royce agreed to join the firm. Royce will help facilitate meetings with federal government officials on behalf of the Saudi government.

DAWN has developed a set of recommendations to lobbying firms urging them to regulate their own conduct. This includes calling on lobbyists to conduct a due diligence review examining the human rights and humanitarian law record of a government, government agency, or government official they seek to represent and to determine the extent to which their representation would contribute to, or benefit from, any of their human rights or humanitarian law abuses, including by misrepresenting or omitting information to the public or U.S. government officials and representatives about their human rights record. We urge lobbyists to make such reviews public. Most significantly, wecall on lobbyists to pledge to decline representing foreign governments, like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where there is credible information implicating them in the commission of gross violations of human rights or international humanitarian law. 

DAWN has also developed recommendations to members of Congress. These include:

  • Urging members of Congress to refrain from meeting with lobbyists working on behalf of governments, agencies, or officials where there is credible information, documented by human rights organizations or by the State Department’s Annual Human Rights Report, implicating them in gross violations of human rights or international humanitarian law. 
  • Improve lobbying transparency regulations: Congress should integrate two separate sets of legal transparency requirements: the Lobbying Disclosure Act and the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

As you are probably aware, Under President Sisi, Egypt’s poor human rights record has become a human rights crisis. The State Department’s 2020 Country Report on Human Rights in Egypt notes numerous gross violations of human rights including unlawful and arbitrary killings, extrajudicial killings by government agents, forced disappearances, torture, and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. The Sisi government systematically attacks journalists and seeks to eliminate all dissent by violently suppressing freedom of speech, information, and assembly. There are at least 60,000 political prisoners in Egypt, thousands of which the government holds indefinitely without due process. Prison conditions are reprehensible, torture in prison is common, and prison officials often purposefully withhold medical care from sick prisoners. The United States contributes to these abuses by providing the Egyptian government $1.3 billion of military aid and extensive political support each year. 

Saudi Arabia‘s human rights record is among the worst in the word for democratic representation, as Saudi citizens have virtually no voice in the Kingdom’s monarchial rule. Under Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s human rights is even worse than before. Human rights abuses are pervasive and political dissent is not tolerated. Saudi citizens endure extensive surveillance and even perceived political opponents are arrested, and often held incommunicado indefinitely and tortured.

You can read more about Egypt and Saudi Arabia’s abuses and how Ed Royce’s role as their lobbyist in his newly published profile on the Lobbyist Hall of Shame.

We urge your office to sever any ties with Ed Royce, and publicly pledge not to meet with him or other lobbyists who represent abusive governments like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Over 5,000 US citizens and residents have signed a petition circulated only three days ago calling on BHFS to end their contract with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Egypt and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Saudi Arabia. We expect the momentum to grow in the upcoming weeks, and we urge you to amplify our calls today. 

Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or need any additional information. 

Best,

Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)
ALQST for Human Rights
BanKillerDrones.org
CODEPINK
Egyptians Abroad for Democracy
Freedom Forward
Libyan American Alliance
MENA Rights Group
The Quincy Institute
RootsAction.org
World BEYOND War