Judicial Watch Seeks Information on Qatari Government’s Funding of Texas A&M, a Public University
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a petition to intervene on behalf of its client Zachor Legal Institute under the Texas Public Information Act, seeking information about potential influence by the Qatar government’s funding of certain Texas A&M University programs and a Texas A&M campus in Education City, Al Rayyan, Qatar (Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development v. Ken Paxton, Texas Attorney General (No. D-1-GN-18-006240)).
Zachor Legal Institute is a U.S.-based advocacy group dedicated to combatting the spread of anti-Semitism. Zachor made requests under the TPIA for information about the funding or donations made to Texas A&M by the government of Qatar and agencies and subdivisions of the government of Qatar. Qatar controversially has aligned itself with Islamic terrorists and extremists which has placed it at odds with the United States, Israel and other U.S. allies in the Middle East.
Zachor’s began asking nearly a year ago for information about Qatari funding of Texas A&M research and how Texas A&M, a public university, was able to establish a degree-conferring campus in Qatar without the Texas Legislature’s permission or involvement. In 2003 Texas A&M established a campus in Qatar that now grants Bachelor of Science degrees in Chemical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Petroleum Engineering. Since 2011, advanced degrees have been offered in Chemical Engineering.
Texas A&M at Qatar has awarded more than 900 degrees since 2007.
In October 2018, Qatar filed suit to prevent disclosure of its funding information. Judicial Watch contends that neither the Qatari government nor any of its agencies are protected by Texas Public Information Act exceptions and that federal law “expressly makes the requested information public.”
The university claims the records can be kept from the public because disclosure would reveal confidential donor information. Judicial Watch points out the law only protects private donors, not donations from a foreign government body, specifically the Qatar Foundation. The Qatar Foundation “was created by the Emir of Qatar, is Chaired by his consort, and is sponsored and supported by the government of Qatar, a monarchy. At no point did the Qatar Foundation demonstrate that it is not an agency or subdivision of the government of Qatar.”
“Judicial Watch and the Zachor Legal Institute are battling in court for the truth about how the foreign government of Qatar lassoed Texas A&M into setting up a campus in a country run by a government known for its promotion of terrorism and extreme anti-Israel and anti-Semitic policies,” said Tom Fitton, President of Judicial Watch.
Marc Greendorfer, President of Zachor Legal Institute said, “We are grateful for the assistance of Judicial Watch in intervening on our behalf. We were surprised that the Qatar Foundation sought to suppress the production of information that is required to be reported under federal law and look forward to finally receiving the documents from Texas A&M so we can continue our work researching the influence of malign foreign actors on American campuses.”
Judicial Watch was assisted in this case by Jennifer S. Riggs of Riggs & Ray, P.C. in Austin, Texas.