President Joe Biden hired a new senior adviser on Friday who formerly lobbied on behalf of Qatar, the oil-rich Arab nation that has close ties to Iran and is a central hub for terrorism financing.
The White House announced on Friday evening that Erin Pelton is set to join the administration as a special assistant to Biden and a senior adviser on domestic policy issues. Pelton, a onetime foreign service officer and flak during the Obama administration, later advocated on behalf of foreign governments, including Qatar, according to public filings with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which mandates that Americans who are lobbying for foreign governments disclose their work.
Pelton’s work for Qatar is likely to raise questions about the revolving door between the Biden White House and lobbying firms that represent a host of foreign governments. Pelton is just the latest Biden administration official to have questionable ties to adversarial regimes. Biden’s Asia policy czar, Kurt Campbell, for instance, helped found a group that critics say is "heavily influenced by the CCP." The administration’s potential pick to lead NASA, former senator Bill Nelson, invested in a Chinese telecom company that is blacklisted by the Pentagon.
Pelton lobbied on behalf of the Qatari embassy in 2018, when she was working for Mercury Public Affairs, a top lobbying shop in Washington, D.C., according to the Justice Department filings.
Qatar has spent billions of dollars lobbying American politicians and influencers. The country funds prominent think tanks, such as the Brookings Institution, and was alleged last year to have funded hack attacks on some 1,500 individuals, including political operatives based in Washington, D.C. A 2020 lawsuit alleged that Qatar financed terror attacks that killed Americans.
Despite its coordination with the United States on anti-terrorism operations, Qatar continues to maintain relations with Iran and is suspected of funding Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terror group operating in Lebanon. Qatar’s terror financing has gone largely unaddressed due to Doha’s hosting of the Al Udeid military base, which houses U.S. Central Command’s regional headquarters.
Pelton formerly served as a U.S. foreign service officer until 2014, when she became the spokeswoman for the United States Mission to the United Nations under Susan Rice. She also served as a press secretary for the White House National Security Council during the Obama administration and also as a deputy spokeswoman for the State Department’s Near Eastern Affairs Bureau, which deals with policy matters in the Middle East.
Pelton helped defend Rice in 2020 from accusations that she and the Obama administration wrongly launched an investigation into Trump-era national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was exonerated last year from charges he colluded with Russia.