Connecticut GOP candidate acknowledges work in Saudi Arabia

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — For months, Bob Stefanowski, the Republican candidate for governor in Connecticut, declined to reveal the clients of his lucrative business consulting firm, saying he had a duty to customers to keep certain things confidential.

Democrats wielded the lack of transparency like a cudgel, saying Stefanowski must be hiding something.

Now, at least one aspect of his work has been revealed. Stefanowski has acknowledged for the first time that he has done consulting work related to a proposed futuristic city in Saudi Arabia, backed by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Stefanowski confirmed to Hearst Connecticut Media, in a story published Wednesday, that he has been involved with the NOEM project since 2019.

His acknowledgement came after being presented with documents showing he met with top executives of the planned green energy city, including an email sent in 2018 that referred to a meeting he had in London with someone involved with the Saudi state-run investment fund.

Stefanowski told Hearst he did not work directly with the Saudi government or the investment fund.

“Just because you meet with a country doesn’t mean you agree with all their policies and procedures,” he said. “This is a green energy project that could help the world. That’s what it was limited to.”

He said he continues to consult on the project but has “scaled down” his involvement during his campaign for governor.

A message was left seeking comment with his campaign, which was expected to issue a statement later Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia has a complicated relationship with the U.S.

Human rights advocates have condemned the Persian Gulf nation for oppressing dissent and the 2018 killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday there would be “consequences” for Saudi Arabia for backing recent oil production moves that were seen as likely to help Russia in its war with Ukraine.

Yet the kingdom has also been a military and diplomatic partner and is seen as a counterbalance to Iran’s influence in the region to Iran.

Connecticut Democrats, including Gov. Ned Lamont’s campaign, have criticized Stefanowski for not revealing his consulting clients. “There’s no telling whose interests he truly represents,” Lamont’s campaign said in one written statement.

Stefanowski, 60, is an accountant and financial analyst who has written two books on mergers and acquisitions. He once worked as the CEO of a payday loan company and has also worked for General Electric and investment bank UBS, among other entities.

Stefanowski has said previously that he would release what he could “ethically and legally” provide to the public about his consulting clients.

“In a consulting firm, there’s always confidential information,” he told reporters earlier this year.

Three years of tax documents released in September show Stefanowski and his wife Amy earned a total of $36.8 million and have three limited liability companies, including one called Lolo Consulting.

His campaign said in a statement that Lolo Consulting provides services including “merger & acquisition and due diligence support, corporate strategy and other general consulting services.” Also, Lolo has advised on “acquisitions and joint ventures in the financial services, health care and energy sectors,” according to the statement.

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