First lady Annie Lamont faces questions over Saudi business ties

Annie Lamont also manages Oak HC/FT - a major venture capital firm based in Stamford. Government transparency groups are raising red flags about the company's ties to Sanabil Investments, which claims to control $3 billion in investments and is wholly funded by the Saudi royal family’s Sovereign Wealth Fund.

John Craven

Aug 2, 2023, 9:21 PM

Updated 294 days ago

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Connecticut First lady Annie Lamont is once again facing questions about her business arrangements – this time, over her company’s ties to the controversial Saudi Arabian royal family. Now, some groups are calling for tougher transparency laws.
SAUDI “PARTNERSHIP”
When Gov. Ned Lamont was sworn in for his second term in January, his wife was by his side. But beyond being first lady, Annie Lamont also manages Oak HC/FT - a major venture capital firm based in Stamford.
Now, government transparency groups are raising red flags about the company's ties to Sanabil Investments, which claims to control $3 billion in investments and is wholly funded by the Saudi royal family’s Sovereign Wealth Fund. The U.S. government has linked the regime to human rights abuses, including the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Oak HC/FT’s connection to Sanabil was first reported by political blogger and former television reporter George Colli on July 27. Sanabil’s website lists Oak HC/FT as one of “our partners.” Annie Lamont’s company did not respond to questions about how much the Saudis invested or terms of the deal.
The governor downplayed the news this week. Lamont said even he didn't know about the investment until media reports surfaced.
“It's one of 100 different investors. It was publicly noticed, right on their website,” said Lamont. “They can invest their money in China. They can invest their money in Russia, or they can invest their money in the United States.”
Last year, Lamont criticized his Republican opponent, Bob Stefanowski, for working as a consultant on NEOM, a half-trillion-dollar “City of the Future” backed by controversial Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Stefanowski confirmed the arrangement after Hartford Courant columnist Kevin Rennie reported it but declined to say how much he was paid.
“I can see why somebody running for office would want to hide that from the public,” Lamont said at the time. “Signing a deal with the Saudis right after the assassination of Khashoggi raises questions about judgment.”
Other Democrats have vocally criticized the regime. Last month, Sen. Richard Blumenthal grilled PGA leaders over their proposed merger with the Saudi-backed LIV Tour.
“Today's hearing is about much more than the game of golf,” he said during a contentious Senate hearing. “It's about how a brutal, repressive regime can buy influence.”
“THE PUBLIC REALLY NEEDS TO KNOW A LOT MORE”
Although the Lamonts submit a list of Oak HC/FT’s ownership interests to the Office of State Ethics, government transparency groups said the law doesn’t go far enough.
“I think the public really needs to know a lot more,” said Dr. Bilal Sekou, a University of Hartford political science professor who serves as advisory board chair for Common Cause of Connecticut. “When you're the leader of the state, like the governor is, it really means that you make certain kinds of sacrifices. And one of those sacrifices has to do with giving up some of your privacy.”
This isn't the first time Annie Lamont’s business ties have drawn concern. Oak HC/FT invested in Sema4, a lab that received a no-bid state contract for COVID testing in early 2020. The governor insisted that the state had limited testing options at the time, and that he played no role in picking the company.
"No, zero. None, absolutely. We've got to show beyond a shadow of a doubt, this is an administration with integrity," Lamont told News 12 Connecticut’s “Power and Politics” in 2021. "We wanted to be very clear. We put together a list of every single investment we made and made sure our hands were off.”
The Lamonts disclosed Oak HC/FT’s stake in Sema4 to state ethics officials, but the public didn't find out until months later, when the Hartford Courant reported it.


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