WASHINGTON—For years, the Sherton Hotel chain has offered a unique perk: it is the only hotel chain to be a major sponsor of a charity that is not a U.S. taxpayer-supported entity.
As a result, the company has been able to pay millions to the Muslim Relief Foundation in exchange for political favors.
“This is a very unusual thing,” said Richard H. Sallman, a professor of economics at Princeton University who specializes in charitable giving.
“It is not just the Islamic charities that are doing this.
You would think the Muslim charities would be more interested in doing it, but they don’t seem to be.”
In 2015, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency paid the Shertons to contribute $1.5 million to the group, the largest donation to a charity of its kind in U.A.E. history.
The agency is run by the United Nations, which does not have a charitable status in the U-N, but it is under scrutiny for violating U.K. laws by allowing the Shermans to donate to its aid agencies without complying with them.
The charity, which operates an emergency shelter for refugees in Jordan and operates a relief center in Kenya, is a subsidiary of the Saudi Arabian government, which was designated by the U,N.
as a terrorist group in 2014.
In an interview, a spokesperson for the Saudi government said it was not aware of the charity’s activities and that the organization’s status as a foreign entity was under review.
The Saudi government, the spokesperson said, would continue to cooperate with the U.-N.
in its investigations.
Sheraton is among more than a dozen U. S. charities that were singled out by U. N. officials as being at risk of being shut down by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, in an effort to curtail their ability to fund extremist groups.
The Islamic State has declared a caliphate in parts of Syria and Iraq and has established a military presence in neighboring countries.
Its self-proclaimed caliphate is not recognized by most countries and it has struggled to control territory and recruiting.
Department of State and U. ny State Department have accused ISIL of using social media to recruit new fighters and encouraging members to travel to Syria and other countries.
ISIL is a Sunni extremist group that has claimed responsibility for attacks on U.n. peacekeepers in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and elsewhere in recent years.
The charities that have benefitted from Sheraton’s sponsorship have ranged from the United Methodist Church to the World Health Organization.
The Muslim Relief and works agency is affiliated with the World Relief Organization, which also has no official political affiliation.
The Shertons were among those who were invited to give money to the charity.
Shermans spokespeople declined to comment for this article.
The donation from Shermans and other Islamic charities to the URAF was made under a separate arrangement known as “collaboration with government entities.”
Shermans spokesperson Eric Finkler said the donation was made in the name of a private foundation that was not a government agency and that it was done as part of a joint effort by the Sherts to support relief efforts for the homeless in Saudi Arabia.
Finklers statement was not immediately returned.
He said the charity has a policy against using its name and logo in connection with donations and that Shermans was the first U.s. company to donate directly to the United States government in the past four years.
“The Shermans’ commitment to supporting those in need is a reflection of the company’s commitment to its community,” Finkers statement said.
In a written statement, Shermans spokesman Mark A. Schreiber said the company is committed to helping refugees and other people who have been displaced in conflict zones.
“Our focus is to support the communities that need help the most, but also those who are not,” he said.
Sherton’s relationship with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia dates to the early 2000s, when the company was a major beneficiary of government largesse.
According to data provided by the company, the Emiratis have given more than $20 million to charity since 2003.
The UAE is a member of the United Kingdom, the United kingdom’s largest trading partner, and the Saudi Kingdom, a close U. A spokesman for the Emirates said the country has not been asked to provide any information about its relationship with Shermans.
“We are in no way involved with the Shermottos’ business or any of its activities,” the spokesman said.
The spokesman said the UAE does not provide political assistance to any other U. s or foreign government.
He did not respond to requests for comment.
The Emirates also has a close relationship with Saudi Arabia, which has been the largest recipient of Shermans largesse, and is home to the Saudi Embassy in Washington.