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Saudi Arabia got the best of Nevada Assemblywoman

Updated March 18, 2017 - 11:07 pm

Assemblywoman Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod must resign from office.

The Las Vegas Democrat is a disgrace to the state of Nevada.

When the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Ben Botkin revealed Thursday that she was a foreign agent for the terrorist-loving Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, she had to go.

Even Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, in an email to her campaign chairman leaked in October by WikiLeaks, argued that the Saudis were “providing clandestine financial and logistic support” to ISIS.

Do we really want someone representing us who, on behalf of the Saudis, lobbied against the new Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA?

That federal law allows the families of the nearly 3,000 American citizens massacred in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis — to sue the monarchy for its alleged state financing of terrorism.

The 9/11 Commission, though not finding that the Saudis specifically supported the terrorist plot, did criticize Saudi Arabia for fanning the flames of radical Islam by funding schools and mosques around the world that spread extreme ideology.

It also noted that some rich Saudis gave money to charities with terrorist links.


Do we really want someone in Carson City who, at the behest of the Saudis, has done what she called “outreach”— lobbying that pits the veterans’ community against the 9/11 families?

Lobbyists hired by the Saudis have been falsely telling veterans nationwide that if other countries reciprocate by passing laws like JASTA, veterans will be sued in foreign courts, said Terry Strada, a 53-year-old mother of three who headed the group of 9/11 families championing JASTA. Her husband was killed in the attacks.

Veterans, most of whom didn’t initially know of Saudi involvement, were given free trips to the nation’s capital to lobby congressional leaders against JASTA, Strada said.

“What these lobbyists are doing for Saudi Arabia is just disgusting,” Strada said. “It’s a betrayal.”

Yes, it is.

If we want Bilbray-Axelrod’s kind of representation, we need our heads examined.

Bilbray-Axelrod was one of four Nevada-based registered foreign agents who either worked for or were closely tied to Organized Karma, a consulting/lobbying firm. The others are Aida Blankenship, Ronni Council and Charity Stevens.

They’ve all worked as subcontractors for Qorvis MLSGroup, a Washington, D.C.-based public relations firm now earning a reported $1 million a month from the Saudis and hiring PR specialists across the country.

Council, who claims that the lobbyists care about veterans, admits veterans weren’t always told of Saudi involvement in lobbying.

California veteran David Casler, who took the free trip to Washington and stayed at the luxurious Trump International Hotel, found out on his own.

“It was so disingenuous,” he said.

William S. Dodge, a former counselor on international law for the U.S. State Department and a current professor at the University of California, Davis, School of Law, said it is important veterans know that, if a another nation passes a bill like JASTA, they need not worry.

He noted JASTA allows U.S. citizens to sue only foreign governments for supporting terrorism, not individuals.

Bilbray-Axelrod did not return a call for comment last week, but she later sent an email containing a copy of her Thursday resignation from Organized Karma.

Bilbray-Axelrod’s written resignation doesn’t mean she deserves to represent us in the Legislature.

We now know she just might sell out for a fast buck. And that’s just too big a risk.

Paul Harasim’s column runs Sunday, Tuesday and Friday in the Nevada section and Monday in the Health section. Contact him at pharasim@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5273. Follow @paulharasim on Twitter.

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