Qatar, the oil-rich Middle Eastern nation that provides shelter and cash to the Hamas terror group’s top leaders, has spent nearly $6 billion since 2007 lobbying the American government and funneling cash to the United States’ top universities, funding that is generating scrutiny in Congress.
With Qatar emerging as a central mediator in the United States’ attempts to reach a hostage deal between Israel and Hamas, Doha’s decades-long influence peddling operation in America is raising concerns about the country’s ties to the Iran-backed terror group.
Qatar has given or contracted more than $5.6 billion to 61 American schools since 2007, including Ivy Leagues such as Harvard University, Yale University, Cornell University, and Stanford University, according to funding records reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon. The country has also doled out more than $243 million on lobbying efforts in the United States since 2015, with more than $16 million spent in 2023 alone.
The money, experts and lawmakers say, has enabled Qatar to have outsized influence in American politics and academia, efforts they say have mainstreamed anti-Israel propaganda and silenced criticism about Doha’s longstanding ties to Hamas, the Iranian regime, and other terror groups. Hamas’s "three top leaders alone are worth a staggering total of $11 billion and enjoy a life of luxury in the sanctuary of the emirate of Qatar," according to the New York Post.
The vast funding operation has generated congressional interest in the past and is fueling calls for an investigation by members of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), Congress’s largest GOP caucus, according to lawmakers and senior GOP aides who spoke to the Free Beacon. The RSC, one senior staffer said, is currently pressuring the relevant House oversight committees to investigate Qatar’s lobbying efforts and funding to schools.
"The amount of money that Qatar has invested in its influence operations in Washington over the last two decades is simply staggering," Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the Treasury Department who now serves as research director at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) think tank, told the Free Beacon. "It’s even more staggering when one stops to consider that the country has a mere 330,000 citizens. What does a country this tiny want with so much influence?"
Qatar, Schanzer said, is using its wealth to "ensure the acceptability of terrorist groups like Hamas and the Taliban. It would also like the West to turn a blind eye to the regime’s funding, safe haven, or normalization of other extremist groups, including al Qaeda or even the Islamic State."
Qatar remains "a major Hamas financier," according to FDD, and has repeatedly blamed Israel for the terror group’s unprecedented rampage across the Jewish state. Qatar also hosts Hamas’s political office in Doha, and three of the group’s top leaders—Ismail Haniyeh, the chief of Hamas’s political bureau, Khalil al-Hayya, head of its communications office, and Khaled Mashal, head of the group’s diaspora office—reside in the country.
The billions of dollars in Qatari donations to American schools is "perhaps the most worrying," according to Schanzer, who said Doha "now has a stranglehold on our institutions of higher learning—and we often cannot even see the terms of the arrangements that Qatar made with these schools."
From November 2007 to October 2023, Qatar made 1,116 donations to American universities totaling $5,673,091,815, records show. This has led to accusations that Doha is using its influence with the country’s top schools to mainstream propaganda that portrays Israel in a negative light.
Through the Qatar Foundation, a state-controlled entity tasked with promoting the country's interests, the nation has prioritized educational initiatives that employ anti-Israel materials, according to watchdog groups.
Rep. Kevin Hern (R., Okla.), the RSC’s chair, told the Free Beacon that Qatar’s outsized spending in the United States serves as a "stark reminder that Congress must do more to address foreign funding and influence in American universities."
"Our adversaries use these gifts and contracts to indoctrinate our students, stifle academic freedom, steal valuable research and intellectual property, and threaten our national security," Hern said, adding that he is pushing formal investigations and spearheading legislation that would require universities and their staff to disclose exactly how much funding they receive from foreign entities.
Rep. Greg Stube (R., Fla.), an RSC member who sits on the House Ways and Means Committee, expressed similar concerns upon reviewing Qatar’s billion-dollar donations to a range of top American universities.
"This is yet another example of the dangers of foreign money flooding into the American higher education system," he told the Free Beacon.
In addition to its funding for schools, Qatar spends heavily on lobbying efforts.
In 2023, the country spent $5 million lobbying the American government. Another $11 million was spent on nongovernment lobbying expenses, according to public records. From 2020 to 2022, Doha spent more than $130 million on government and nongovernment lobbying efforts.
Qatar also has invested heavily in America, spending more than $30 billion as of 2019 through its sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority, according to the State Department.