Saudis Seek The Best Image Money Can Buy

"The Saudi government has spent millions of dollars on well-connected lobbyists and national television advertisements since Sept. 11 in a drive to improve its image among Americans and is poised to spend more as the anniversary of the events approaches," The New York Times' Christopher Marquis reports. "In all, the Saudis have hired several public relations firms and have already spent more than $5 million, according to new Justice Department filings. These firms include one of Washington's most prominent, Patton Boggs, which received $170,000 in the first six months of this year, according to the filings. ... The Saudi government has also hired Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, a firm founded by Robert W. Strauss, the former head of the Democratic National Committee, paying out $161,799 in the first half of 2002, the filings show. Frederick Dutton, a former special assistant to President John F. Kennedy and a longtime adviser to the Saudis, received $536,000 to help manage the Saudis' handling of the aftermath of Sept. 11 -- and he has a continuing contract with that government." It is common for countries to hire U.S. lobbyist, but prior to September 11, the Times reports, the Saudis spent relatively little on lobbying. "In the first half of 2001, the kingdom spent only $256,770 on two lobbying firms. By contrast, during the same period, Israel spent $5.1 million on eight firms and Japan spent $24.6 million on 58 firms," Marquis writes.