Before joining the Trump administration Jim Bognet, a Republican candidate for Congress in northeastern Pennsylvania, was senior vice president of one of Saudi Arabia’s most powerful lobbying firms in Washington, D.C. — a term only one super PAC Democrat plans to make a major issue in one of the most important House races in the country.

House Majority PAC, the super PAC that backs congressional Democrats, began airing an ad on Tuesday that is about as hard-hitting as it comes in politics. After citing an FBI report linking 9/11 to elements of the Saudi government, the ad explains that Saudi Arabia, using a company Bognet worked for in Washington, lobbied Congress for the immunity from legal action brought by the victims of the attack. It ends with a link between Bognet and his company’s lobbying on behalf of Saudi Arabia, drives the point home with a portrait of the hijackers, asking, “If he was defending them, why would you think that would he defend you?

Bognet, the first congressional candidate this cycle to receive an endorsement from former President Donald Trump, is running in a rematch in the district that includes President Joe Biden’s hometown of Scranton, a version of which has been represented since 2012 by Rep. Matt Cartwright. Cartwright managed to comfortably hold the seat while going against conventional wisdom and adopting a largely populist and progressive politics. He’s beaten Bognet by 4 points in 2020, and he’s one of the Republicans’ top targets this cycle.

The extent of Bognet’s income from the business, Glover Park Group, is unclear thanks to his incomplete financial disclosure statements during his time at the Export-Import Bank in the Trump administration. Bognet, according to Lance Matthews, deputy director of ethics at the Export-Import Bank, got several extensions to file his report and then left before he did. Upon leaving, he was incorrectly told that he did not need to file all of his disclosure documents, Matthews said, and therefore no records exist. His disclosure filed as a congressional candidate shows income of $21,000 for the current year and $16,000 for the prior year. His disclosure of his previous run for Congress does not go back far enough to determine his earnings from GPG.

Saudi Arabia has spent years lobbying against the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. Foreign governments are generally immune from prosecution in US courts, but JASTA has proposed changing the law so that families of 9/11 victims can sue Saudi Arabia for its involvement. Former President Barack Obama vetoed the bill when it passed in 2016, but Congress overruled his veto in September. Bognet, according to his resume, joined GPG in January 2016. The same month the veto was overturned, Saudi Arabia went on a spending spree in Washington, bringing in powerful corporations to try to reverse the defeat. .

GPG acquired Saudi Arabia as a customer on September 20, 2016, according to filings, and the veto was overturned on September 28. Federal documents reveal that the group made a series of calls to the House, Senate and White House the previous week. the cancellation of the right of veto, lobbying against it.

Documents filed under the Department of Justice Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Screenshot: The Interception

Lobbying has only accelerated following the passage of the bill, with filings showing dozens of additional calls and meetings as the kingdom scrambles to pass new legislation during the lame session to loosen up JASTA. On November 30, the senses. Lindsey Graham, RS.C., and the late John McCain, R-Arizona, eventually introduced legislation to weaken it, and records show GPG was in contact with a key Graham aide in the days leading up to, beginning of the introduction of the new measure.

Department of Justice FARA records.  Screenshot: The Interception

Documents filed under the Department of Justice Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Screenshot: The Interception

Bognet did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Intercept over the past month. The 2016 press release announcing Bognet’s hiring said he would “provide strategic and media advice to the firm’s clients.” Saudi Arabia paid $600,000 for the company’s services the first year and $700,000 for its assistance the following year. “It should be completely shocking that a candidate for public office would be willing to sell out American victims of 9/11 to a foreign government,” said Kunal Atit, Cartwright’s campaign manager. “Bognet should be ashamed of himself.”

television advertising behind Bognet’s campaign focused heavily on the moment he threw the winning field goal in a high school football game in the ’90s; in an ad, to complain that “memories of northeastern Pennsylvania too often end after high school. People leave and don’t come back.

A follow-up ad also delves into that basket, ending with him kicking another, now in his 40s and having returned to the district. Bognet’s resume shows he has indeed been building memories outside of northeast Pennsylvania since leaving after high school. His journey first took him to Wall Street, where he worked for Merrill Lynch, now known as Merrill for short, on the leveraged buyout team. A leveraged buyout describes what is commonly known as the corporate raid, in which a group of investors borrow heavily to take over a company, often realizing their profit through layoffs, union busting and job cuts. pensions.

Bognet’s biography on his campaign website now describes him as “a small business owner and conservative political adviser.” The “small business” that Bognet claims to own probably refers to a pair of limited liability companies that Bognet, like many consultants, created for tax and legal purposes: JRB Strategies, after his initials, and Winning Kick Strategies. .

Bognet left GPG in 2018, becoming managing director of Martha McSally’s failed Senate bid campaign against Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona, then worked for the Export-Import Bank under Trump. He left in 2019.

As for “conservative” policy advice, Trump himself might disagree. When Bognet entered politics, he did so for the moderate wing, working first for former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and then for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign. When Romney lost the Republican nomination to McCain, Bognet joined McCain’s campaign. In 2012, he returned to the Romney campaign.

Trump has made his hostility to Romney and McCain central to his political identity, and Schwarzenegger has spoken publicly about Trump’s threat to civil society and the country as a whole. Bognet, a skilled political communications professional, turned an experience that would typically have disqualified him among a “Make America Great Again” audience into the story of a humble local small business owner.

What Bognet lacks in a MAGA context, he makes up for by adopting Trump-esque lingo, pledging to “build the wall” and promising to fight China to avenge “the Wuhan flu.” He claims Democrats rigged the 2020 election in Pennsylvania against both him and Trump, though voter registration records obtained and released by National Democrats show Bognet registered at the address of his parents so he could vote in the state during the tea party wave of 2010, when he was living and working in the Washington, D.C. area at the time.

Screenshot from Luzerne County Board of Elections: The Intercept

Luzerne County Board of Elections

Screenshot: The Interception

He lists his most significant success at GPG as a campaign to open air routes to Cuba, made possible by the Obama administration’s thawing of relations with the country – which Trump reversed.