Former Maryland GOP Communications Director Chevy Weiss May Have Violated Foreign Agents Registration Act
By Brian P. McGlinchey
As 9/11 families and survivors await the disposition of a March complaint filed with the Department of Justice alleging broad misconduct by consultants working for Saudi Arabia, 28Pages.org continues to find new examples of apparent violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
The latest discovery: Political consultant Yocheved “Chevy” Weiss, a registered agent of Saudi Arabia, used Facebook to recruit veterans and others to help push for changes to the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), but her solicitations did not disclose that she was acting on the kingdom’s behalf.
JASTA cleared the way for 9/11 survivors and family members to sue the government of Saudi Arabia for its alleged support of the al Qaeda hijackers. After its Sept. 28 enactment, the kingdom launched a massive lobbying campaign to push for the law to be repealed or amended.
Weiss, who didn’t acknowledge invitations to provide her own perspective for this story, was among approximately 70 Americans across the country that lobbying firm Qorvis MSLGROUP hired for the Saudi cause in a several-week period following JASTA’s enactment.
A former director of communications for the Maryland GOP, Weiss registered with the Department of Justice as an agent of Saudi Arabia on Oct. 13. Her registration form indicated she would be paid up to $5,000 for her work for the kingdom.
FARA requires registration “before performing activities for the foreign principal.” However, eight days before she signed her registration form (which wasn’t received by the DOJ until Oct. 31), Weiss used a Facebook post to ask people who are “military, former military, or have immediate family in the military” to contact her if they shared her “concern” about JASTA’s alleged danger to U.S. service members.
Qorvis lobbyists have led veterans to unwittingly work toward Saudi Arabia’s goal of weakening JASTA by telling them the law will expose U.S. service members to lawsuits in foreign courts; according to a former counselor on international law at the State Department, that claim is false.
Solicitations Lacked Required “Conspicuous Statement”
FARA also requires that informational material used to support the goals of a foreign government include a “conspicuous statement” that the information is being shared on behalf of that country.
Weiss’s Facebook solicitations, however, contained no disclosure of her motives for sharing arguments against JASTA and inviting others to contact Congress.
According to The Lobbying Manual, the term “informational materials” includes not only tangible, printed material, but “any other form that is reasonably adapted to being…disseminated or circulated among two or more persons.”
Weiss isn’t the only registered Saudi agent who didn’t reveal the motivation for her Facebook posts about JASTA. The complaint submitted to the DOJ by 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism pointed to a similar lack of disclosure by Eric Eisenhammer, who also arranged for a booth at a Reno gun show used to recruit veterans to help push for changes to JASTA.
Willful violations of FARA are punishable by prison terms of up to 5 years and fines of up to $10,000. It’s not clear if Qorvis provided any guidance to contracted individuals on how to comply with FARA.