Howard McKeon and his firm have made over $2 Million from lobbying for the Saudi Arabian government since 2016. By maintaining loyalty to their Saudi clients, the McKeon Group is contributing to, and benefiting from, the Saudi government's human rights abuses.
Howard "Buck" McKeon is a lobbyist for the Saudi Arabian government. His firm, the McKeon Group, has made at least $2 million lobbying for the Saudi government since 2016, including promoting Saudi Arabia among U.S. legislators notwithstanding the country's reprehensible human rights record. Even after the Saudi government's murder of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, McKeon has remained a loyal foreign agent to his Saudi clients.
By continuing to promote the interests of the Saudi government, McKeon and the McKeon Group are contributing to, and benefiting from, the Saudi government's human rights abuses. McKeon should end its contract with the Saudi Arabian government immediately.
McKeon is the former Chair of the House Armed Services Committee. He represented California's 25th District from 1993 to 2015, and served as Chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee (2006–2010) and the House Armed Services Committee (2011–2014). After leaving Congress, McKeon established his own lobbying firm, the McKeon Group. The firm promotes its deep connections in Washington as the only DC firm whose CEO served as Chair of two full House Committees.
The McKeon Group started lobbying for the Saudi government in 2016 and, according to OpenSecrets, the firm received $2 million for this work between 2017 and 2020. The McKeon Group stands out for its persistent support of Saudi Arabia even after the intense scrutiny and public outrage over the murder of Saudi journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi. The McKeon group accepted a payment of $450,000 from the Saudi government only three days after Khashoggi's murder and reportedly received a $50,000 monthly retainer from the Kingdom to lobby on its behalf.
McKeon's lobbying activities for the Saudi government include meeting with the staff of Senate Committee on Armed Services Chair James Inhofe (R-Okla.) on November 14, 2018, to discuss U.S. engagement with the Saudi government—just one month after DAWN's founder, Jamal Khashoggi, was murdered by Saudi agents acting under the direction of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. According to the Washington Post, McKeon's firm made a $1,000 contribution to Senator Inhofe's campaign the same day. Two weeks later, Inhofe voted against a resolution to end U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen and vehemently opposed the Senate's passage of the bill last year.
McKeon has been a close ally of the defense industry throughout his time in Congress and as a lobbyist. In Congress, he founded the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus and a 2013 BBC report concluded "the rise of drones can be traced in part to one man, Howard 'Buck' McKeon." McKeon received $833,650 in "drone-related campaign contributions," and Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin all manufactured drones in McKeon's California district. After Congress, the McKeon Group initially represented Aerojet Rocketdyne, a major defense contractor, and former campaign contributor. The firm then signed General Dynamics and L-3 Communications, before adding Lockheed Martin in June 2016.
Lockheed Martin has sold, and continues to sell, billions of dollars worth of U.S. weapons to the Saudi government. The Saudi government has used these weapons and weapon systems to terrorize civilians in Yemen through its indiscriminate attacks and deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian objects. As just one example, in 2018, a Saudi attack on a school bus saw a single Lockheed Martin bomb kill 51 people, including 40 children, and injure 79 more.
Before joining Congress, McKeon won election to Santa Clarita City Council in 1987, where the Council then named him Mayor. McKeon also worked as the first Chairperson of the Valencia National Bank and served on the William S. Hart Union High School District Board. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University.
DAWN calls on Buck McKeon to drop the contract, decline representation of any other foreign governments where there is credible information implicating them in the commission of gross violations of human rights (GCHR) or international humanitarian law. Consistent with international and domestic legal responsibilities, DAWN makes other recommendations to US Congress, lobbyists, and U.S. State Bar Associations that can be viewed in our Lobbyist Hall of Shame webpage.