A Washington-based nonprofit organization has registered as Qatari under foreign agent laws despite describing itself as an “independent 501(c)3 research institute,” documents revealed on Wednesday.
The Qatar-America Institute (QAI) describes itself as an “independent 501(c)3 research institute,” with 501(c)3 referring to a type of US-registered nonprofit organization that is exempt from federal tax income. But a lobbying filing released on Wednesday revealed that QAI had registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) in May.
In the filing, the nonprofit lists its “foreign principal” as “The State of Qatar, including through the Embassy of Qatar, Qatar National Tourism Council, and Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy.”
According to a report by Foreign Lobby, the institute also revealed it had received a pledge of $5.2 million from the Qatari Embassy in Washington in March 2019.
Our @InfluenceWatch's new report - The Qatar Lobby in Washington - studied the 2018 #FARA filings and found that not only did 33 different US firms serve as foreign agents for Qatar, but Qatar spent over $18 million on lobbying https://t.co/UzQuypMGcW pic.twitter.com/kelcwripOE— Center for International Policy (@CIPolicy) May 15, 2020
In a statement by QAI Chairperson Peggy Loar, the organization acknowledged the activities but said that it did not realize they constituted political activities under FARA.
“At the time the agreements submitted with this registration were signed, QAI did not believe these activities constituted political activities under FARA. In response to a March 12, 2020, letter from the US Department of Justice, QAI has made the decision to register,” said Loar.
Qatar has been accused of carrying out a broader public relations campaign in Washington, including through carrying political ads in the journal POLITICO.
Last week, a basketball league founded by rapper Ice Cube alleged that a US law firm acted as a “spy” for Qatari business interests as part of Doha’s wider public relations campaign in the country.