In recent years, the wealthy Persian Gulf state of Qatar has donated billions to top-flight American universities across the country, as well as a wide range of organizations in the U.S. capital. Much of this spending has gone unreported and appears to be a straightforward attempt to buy influence in the U.S., note Hussain Abdul-Hussain and David Adesnik. It also appears to be tied to alarming allegations about high-ranking U.S. officials having inappropriate dealings with Doha.
Earlier this year, the White House asked Congress officially to designate Qatar as a major non-NATO ally, a status that serves as both a political seal of approval and a key to securing additional training and weapons from the Pentagon. It’s an unusual honor for a country that once sheltered the chief planner of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and now harbors the leaders of the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas. Doha also has a long record of turning a blind eye to terror financing while promoting its anti-Western and anti-Semitic brand of Islam.
And yet, inside the Beltway, taking Qatari money amounts to business as usual. In 2018, when the Washington Capitals were chasing the Stanley Cup, Doha picked up the $100,000 tab for keeping the Metro open for an extra hour, so fans could get home after Game 4 of the conference finals. The emirate has also donated tens of millions of dollars to leading Washington, DC think tanks.
The leading recipients of Qatari largesse are a small circle of top-flight universities, who acknowledged much of the funding they received only under pressure from the Department of Education. For decades, federal law has required universities to disclose when they receive $250,000 or more from a foreign source in a single calendar year. Amid signs of abysmal compliance, DOE launched a series of investigations that turned up $6.5 billion of unreported foreign funding. Among the worst offenders was Cornell, which failed to disclose $1.2 billion of foreign money, including $760 million Doha paid to finance the establishment of a Cornell satellite campus in Qatar’s Education City.
Given how many colleges seem to know the exact amount every alum has donated since he or she received his diploma, Cornell’s oversight does not exactly seem like an honest mistake.