Mr. Broidy donated to two Washington think tanks — the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Hudson Institute — to fund conferences he intended to be critical of Qatar. Featured speakers included the former defense secretaries Mr. Panetta and Mr. Gates, as well as Mr. Bannon and Mr. Petraeus.
Mr. Gates and Mr. Bannon were paid about $100,000 each, while Mr. Petraeus was paid $50,000, according to interviews and contracts, which stipulated that Mr. Gates and Mr. Petraeus would meet privately with Mr. Broidy on the sidelines of the conference. The think tanks paid the speakers and were reimbursed by Mr. Broidy. Mr. Nader helped arrange Mr. Bannon’s appearance, The Daily Beast reported.
Mr. Broidy assured the think tanks that he was using only his own money and that it was not from foreign sources, according to people familiar with the conferences, who said he did not disclose that he was simultaneously pursuing business in the region.
But updates sent by Mr. Broidy to Mr. Nader list Circinus as the entity overseeing the advocacy campaign, which included plans for the conferences, op-eds, articles and congressional and media outreach, including to the Fox News host Sean Hannity, a favorite of Mr. Trump.
One update lists the Emirati and Saudi governments as the “clients” of the campaign, and a senior Saudi general, Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, who would later be blamed by his country’s leadership for the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as a consultant. Mr. Broidy’s lawyers say that the updates were early drafts and that references to the involvement of Circinus and the Saudi and Emirati governments were errors that were corrected in subsequent drafts.
Banking records obtained by The Times show that, months after the first think-tank conference, and days before the second, Mr. Nader received the first of two payments of about $5 million worth of Emirati currency from an entity controlled by the government of the United Arab Emirates.
“Any payments by the U.A.E. to Mr. Nader had absolutely nothing to do with the conferences or the broader educational initiative,” said Tim McCarten, a lawyer with the firm Latham & Watkins, who represents both Mr. Nader and Mr. Broidy. Mr. McCarten declined to specify the purpose of the payments.