The chairman of the South Dakota Republican Party has a separate job that pays him $10,000 a month to inform government officials, the public and the media about Saudia Arabia, but when he was asked to talk about it this week, he declined.
The Rapid City Journal left a phone message with Dan Lederman seeking an interview about his work on behalf of the Saudi Arabian embassy. In an email reply, he turned down the interview request but invited written questions. The Journal sent him 10 questions by email, and he replied with a two-sentence statement.
The statement referenced LS2group, which is short for the Larson Shannahan Slifka Group, of Des Moines, Iowa. The company has an agreement with the Saudi Arabian embassy, and Lederman, a senior adviser for LS2group, is one of the company officials assigned to work on the embassy’s behalf.
“LS2group will provide strategic and government affairs counsel, public relations, and communications services to the Embassy of Saudi Arabia,” the statement said. “LS2group meets and files all disclosures as required by law and takes that responsibility seriously.”
Besides working with LS2group, Lederman is involved in his family’s Lederman Bail Bonds business. He lives in Dakota Dunes.
Lederman was elected chairman of the South Dakota Republican Party in 2017. In that position, his duties include overseeing the party’s headquarters, budget and overall direction.
Public interest in Lederman’s work with Saudi Arabia was stirred Sunday. Investigative journalist Lee Fang, of The Intercept, tweeted a link to the mandatory registration statement that Lederman signed Nov. 26 and filed Dec. 2 with the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Federal law requires people acting on behalf of foreign governments to register. The Department of Justice says on its website, “Disclosure of the required information facilitates evaluation by the government and the American people of the activities of such persons in light of their function as foreign agents.”
The disclosures from LS2group include a copy of its agreement with the Saudi Arabian embassy. The agreement was effective Nov. 1 and continues through Oct. 31, 2020, with an option to renew it on a month-to-month basis. The agreement says LS2group is receiving a retainer of $126,500 per month, which equates to a total of $1.518 million over the 12 months of the agreement.
The “scope of work” portion of the agreement says LS2group will provide public relations services, media management services and government relations for the embassy.
Other disclosures list LS2group officials, including Lederman, who are assigned to work with the embassy. Lederman’s registration statement says he is receiving a fee of $10,000 per month to work part-time as a consultant with LS2group on the Saudia Arabia project.
On the registration form, where Lederman was required to disclose the kind of work he does for the embassy, he wrote, “Provide strategic and government affairs advice, public relations and communications advice and services, and outreach and engagement with the public and media groups.”
On another part of the form, where Lederman was required to describe any activity that would be political in nature, he wrote that his activities “will include informing the public, government officials and the media about the importance of fostering and promoting strong relations between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
Read the documents: Lederman, LS2group disclosures
Previous disclosures show that Lederman worked on behalf of Saudi Arabia at least once before, from October 2016 to March 2017.
At that time, Lederman disclosed that he was a consultant with MSL GROUP Americas Inc., aka Qorvis MSLG. He worked on behalf of the Kingdom of Saudia Arabia to oppose the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, known as JASTA.
JASTA was passed by Congress in 2016 and vetoed by then-President Barack Obama, but Congress overrode the veto and the bill became law. The law prevents countries involved in terrorist attacks from invoking sovereign legal immunity; specifically, it has allowed families and victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to continue a class-action lawsuit against Saudi Arabia for its alleged support of the al Qaeda terrorist group that carried out the attacks.
Lederman’s 2016 registration statement said he would conduct “outreach to media, influencers, and state and federal elected officials regarding the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act” by “describing the unintended consequences that JASTA poses to US interests, including potential legal liabilities arising for US military, intelligence, and diplomatic personnel.”
Lederman’s work in opposition to JASTA put him, a Republican, on the same side as the Democratic Obama administration, which argued that the law would expose Americans and their government to retaliatory lawsuits in foreign courts.
Meanwhile, Lederman’s work on behalf of Saudia Arabia has placed him in affiliation with a country that discriminates against his Jewish faith and violates his own and his political party’s stated support religious freedom.
Saudi Arabia has an Islamic totalitarian government. On Dec. 18, the country was one of nine re-designated by the U.S. Department of State as Countries of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated “systematic, ongoing, [and] egregious violations of religious freedom.” The State Department’s 2018 Report on International Religious Freedom said Jewish people face discrimination in facets of Saudi Arabian society including the courts, school curricula and state-run media.
Yet, as acknowledged in a State Department fact sheet, the relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia is important to both countries.
“Saudi Arabia’s unique role in the Arab and Islamic worlds, its holding of the world’s second largest reserves of oil, and its strategic location all play a role in the long-standing bilateral relationship between the Kingdom and the United States,” the fact sheet says. “The United States and Saudi Arabia have a common interest in preserving the stability, security, and prosperity of the Gulf region and consult closely on a wide range of regional and global issues.”
Contact Seth Tupper at firstname.lastname@example.org