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FBI Searches Offices of PR Firm Representing Saudi Arabia

FBI agents on Tuesday searched the offices of the public relations firm Qorvis Communications, seeking to find out whether Qorvis is complying with federal laws regulating its work on behalf of the government of Saudi Arabia.

FBI investigators went to Qorvis’ offices in Washington and Northern Virginia, looked through computer files and personally interviewed a number of company employees, according to sources familiar with the incident.

A spokesman for Qorvis confirmed the search had taken place and said it was held to determine if Qorvis is in compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

“We understand that the government is conducting a FARA compliance inquiry,” said the Qorvis spokesman, who declined to be named.

“Qorvis has fully complied with this registration statute and we are confident this will be resolved reasonably.”

The government of Saudi Arabia has spent tens of millions of dollars in the United States since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to improve its image with the American public and policymakers in Washington. Much of that money has been funneled through Qorvis.

FARA documents indicate that Qorvis was paid nearly $7 million in 2003 for a nationwide TV and print ad campaign, and Qorvis has in turn hired other PR firms as subcontractors.

FARA was enacted in 1938 by Congress as it sought to shed light on the actions of pro-German propaganda agents in the period leading up to World War II. All U.S. citizens hired by foreign governments or entities to engage in political activities, public relations work or otherwise represent their interests before the U.S. government must register under FARA and report how much they are paid, as well as the nature of their services. The Justice Department oversees compliance with the regulations.

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