Ex-NRA head’s John Bolton connection helps him make six-figures as foreign agent

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Former NRA President and current foreign agent David Keene (RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

David Keene, former National Rifle Association president and American Conservative Union chairman turned foreign agent, has received six-figures from the Algerian government since late last year, using his extensive GOP connections to help make Algeria’s case to U.S. government officials. 

In his most recent FARA filing, accessed through no deposit bonus forex’ Foreign Lobby Watch tool Wednesday, Keene discloses receiving at least $180,000 as well as holding meetings with a number of government officials, including members of Congress, White House aides and even Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. 

Arguably most important among Keene’s 2019 government contacts is National Security Advisor John Bolton, a former colleague of Keene’s at the NRA. As part of the Trump administration’s New Africa Strategy, Bolton wants to help negotiate an end to the decades-long conflict between Morocco and Algerian-backed group Polisario Front over the sparsely-populated Western Sahara. Keene met with Bolton in January, shortly after Bolton expressed frustration that the conflict had not been resolved amid United Nations peace talks. 

This isn’t the first time Keene has worked for the Algerian government. He reported lobbying for the west African country from 2006 to 2008 and wrote an opinion piece blaming the U.S.-backed Morocco for the Western Sahara conflict a few years after terminating his registration. In outlining the terms of their $360,000 lobbying agreement, Algeria issued a cheeky press release titled “Algeria is Keen on NRA Alum Keene.”

Morocco and the Algeria-backed Polisario Front have both claimed the Western Sahara despite the United Nations’ determination that the expansive desert region is a non-governing territory. Morocco and Polisario met in Geneva for peace talks in December 2018 but could not come to an agreement. 

Since Keene signed on as a foreign agent of Algeria, the country’s government has experienced significant turbulence, culminating in the ousting of former Algerian Prime Minister Abdelaziz Bouteflika in May.

The Kingdom of Morocco has ramped up foreign influence and lobbying operations of its own as it grapples with competing forces and allegedly commits human rights abuses, spending nearly $1.5 million targeting the U.S. last year according to Foreign Lobby Watch. Morocco foreign lobbyist Richard Smotkin helped arrange a $100,000 trip to Morocco for then-Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt. 

Unlike many other registrants who fail to detail the extent of their foreign influence activities, Keene disclosed many contacts with government officials and describes his specific role in lobbying on behalf of Algeria. 

He disclosed attending a fundraiser for Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) in April where he contributed $500. In the first quarter of 2019, the NRA’s main PAC reported giving the maximum $5,000 contribution, or near it, to Sullivan as well as other offices Keene contacted in the Senate, including Shelley Moore Capito (R-Wva.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.). 

Keene’s December 15, 2018, meeting with Chief Justice Roberts — which also included Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) — reportedly aimed to “further the relationships and mutual interests of the U.S. and Algeria,” marked the first appearance of the chief justice in FARA filings reported by foreign agents. 

Chief Justice Roberts is the only current sitting Supreme Court justice identified as a contact by a foreign agent in FARA supplemental statements after taking the bench, according to Foreign Lobby Watch data. Supreme Court Justices interacting with foreign agents is not an entirely novel occurrence, however, as other previous justices such as the late Antonin Scalia who appeared multiple during his tenure on the Court.

Keene has come under scrutiny for his contacts with Russian actors, particularly for the NRA’s 2015 trip to Moscow arranged by convicted Russian agent Maria Butina, who currently resides in federal prison. Bolton has also been tied to Butina and appeared in a video promoting Butina’s Russian gun rights group, Right to Bear Arms, reportedly at the request of Keene. 

The NRA has been catapulted into turmoil amid recent allegations of corruption and ongoing legal battles. The gun rights group recently eliminated its television program as it severed ties with longtime vendor Akerman McQueen. 

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