Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Goldberg, Richard

Foundation for Defense of Democracies: Senior Adviser
Office of Sen. Mark Kirk: Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Foreign Policy Advisor, 2004-2014

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Richard Goldberg is a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). From 2004 to 2014, he worked on Capitol Hill, serving as deputy chief of staff and senior foreign policy adviser to former Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) of Illinois. From 2015 to 2017, he was the deputy chief of staff for legislative affairs and later chief of staff for Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Since joining FDD, Goldberg has established himself as an outspoken advocate of military action against Iran. In February 2018, he urged the Donald Trump administration to attack Iranian targets after Israel shot down an Iranian drone that had entered Israeli airspace.

“Now is the time for Trump to re-establish a robust military deterrent toward Iranian expansionism in close collaboration with regional allies,” Goldberg wrote. “His administration declared the Revolutionary Guard a terrorist entity in October, and he should target key Guards’ bases and weapons in Syria accordingly. Such an approach could help prevent a larger-scale conflict.”[1]

Goldberg argues that if European countries fail to support a U.S. decision to abandon the 2015 Iranian nuclear agreement, which is aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons, then Washington should respond by barring those countries’ financial institutions as well as businesses from engaging in financial transactions in the United States. “[European b]locking regulations might shield a company from American-levied fines, but they cannot shield a British bank from losing its access to the U.S. financial system. This time around, the downside of U.S. sanctions would far outweigh the upside of Iranian trade,” he wrote. “This raises serious questions about what would happen if Trump’s deadline arrived and Europe remained unwilling to fix the nuclear deal by eliminating its sunset provisions, requiring inspections of Iranian military sites, and prohibiting Iran from further developing or testing any ballistic missiles. If Trump leaves the deal, America’s toughest sanctions could snap back immediately. And while diplomats in Brussels may want to stare Trump down and see if he flinches, banks will not want to take that risk.”[2]

Goldberg has also called for sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) and other state-controlled media outlets in Iran. In an FDD brief co-authored with Saeed Ghasseminejad, Goldberg wrote, “Iranian state media are an integral part of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s war against the so-called ‘enemies of the revolution.’ The time has come for the U.S. to stop waiving sanctions on IRIB and designate the rest of state media empire, including Tasnim News, Fars News, and IRNA.” He based this call on Iranian human rights violations and dismissed concerns over an agreement the Obama administration made with Iran to refrain from sanctioning the media outlets in exchange for Iran refraining from disrupting regional broadcasts. Goldberg and Ghasseminejad stated that there was “ample evidence” that Iran was violating that agreement, though they did not elaborate as to what that evidence was.[3]


Goldberg quickly established himself as one of FDD’s leading ideologues on the Israel-Palestine conflict. One of his first op-eds after joining FDD attacked the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), a favorite target for the Israeli right and its supporters. “If President Trump wants to use his financial leverage at the United Nations to strike at the heart of the anti-America, anti-Israel institutional infrastructure, he should look no further than the agency responsible for Palestinian refugees: The United Nations Relief and Works Agency,” Goldberg wrote.[4]

Goldberg urged President Trump to establish a definition of Palestinian refugees, limiting the term to those who were displaced in 1948, which is at odds with the Palestinian definition. He recommended “formally adopting a definition for Palestinian refugees that makes a clear distinction between refugees displaced by the 1948 war and their descendants.”[5]

An Aide in the Senate and Illinois Governor’s Office

Goldberg gained attention as an outspoken aide for Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) during the 2000s. His FDD bio says that during this time Goldberg was “instrumental in the deployment of a U.S. missile defense radar to the Negev Desert—the first-ever full-time deployment of U.S. forces in Israel.”[6]

In 2013, Goldberg was reported to have played a leading role in the Republican campaign in Congress opposing President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel. Roll Call reporter Meredith Shiner wrote that Goldberg was the source of numerous emails circulated among congressional staffers targeting Hagel.[7]

“Richard Goldberg, a deputy chief of staff in Kirk’s office who also focuses on foreign policy issues, has been sending as many as three emails a day to the (staffers’) list, which CQ Roll Call confirmed includes reporters, Republican policy staffers and some Democrats,” she wrote. “The emails typically include links or text of articles that cast Hagel—a former Republican senator from Nebraska and President Barack Obama’s secretary of Defense nominee—in a negative light.

“The chatter within Republican circles, however, is that Kirk’s office has been taking a lead role in the campaign against Hagel’s confirmation. Two sources said they expect Kirk will be more vocal about his concerns in the coming days.”[8]

FDD’s Clifford May wrote that FDD executive director Mark Dubowitz worked with Goldberg to promote sanctions targeting the Central Bank of Iran, the SWIFT financial messaging service, and entire sectors of the Iranian economy. In a 2016 article, May relayed a story by Jay Solomon, chief foreign affairs correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. “Eventually, Mr. Dubowitz, working with Sen. Kirk’s then-deputy chief of staff Richard Goldberg, came up with a ‘financial bomb’—a Belgium-based financial firm called SWIFT—’which hosts the international computer network that facilitates virtually every banking transaction in the world through an extensive messaging and financial tracking system.’ The Obama administration opposed expelling Iran from SWIFT but ‘Congress once again overrode the White House’s concerns and unanimously passed’ legislation in 2012 that ‘de-SWIFTed’ Tehran. By 2013, such measures, ‘were crippling Iran’s economy.’”

In 2015, Goldberg left Kirk’s office to work for Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner.

As the governor’s chief of staff, he spearheaded the first-ever state legislation to divest public pension funds from companies engaged in boycotts of Israel, a bill that inspired “anti-BDS bills” across the country and in Congress.[9] The strong backing for the bill from the governor’s office in Illinois, after bills had failed in other states, was important. “It was very clear the bill was being pushed by the Governor’s Office when the first person to submit a witness slip in favor of the bill in the House Executive Committee hearing was Richard Goldberg, Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative Affairs for Governor Rauner’s Office,” according to the Chicago Monitor, a left-wing local newspaper.[10]

In 2017, after an Illinois gubernatorial candidate dropped his running mate over accusations that he supported the Palestinians Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS), Goldberg said, “Under Governor Rauner’s leadership, Illinois became the first state in America to divest its public pension funds from companies that participate in BDS. This should always be a bipartisan issue and I applaud Congressman Schneider and Senator Biss for making clear to the far-left that BDS has no place in the Democratic Party.”[11]

Goldberg holds a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and Master’s in Public Policy and Administration from Northwestern University. He is an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve with prior service in Afghanistan. He is also founder and president of Rapid Global Solutions, a strategic communications and public affairs consultancy business.



[1] Richard Goldberg, “It’s time for Trump to attack Iran’s Revolutionary Guard,” New York Post, February 12, 2018, https://nypost.com/2018/02/12/its-time-for-trump-to-attack-irans-revolutionary-guard/

[2] Richard Goldberg, “Europe’s Sanctions-Blocking Threats Are Empty,” Foreign Policy, February 20, 2018, http://foreignpolicy.com/2018/02/20/europes-iran-deal-threats-are-empty-trump-iran-eu/

[3]Saeed Ghasseminejad and Richard Goldberg, “The Case for Designating Iran’s State Media,” FDD Policy Brief, February 6, 2018, http://www.defenddemocracy.org/media-hit/the-case-for-designating-irans-state-media/

[4] “Richard Goldberg, “Trump should crack down on UNRWA, finally end fiction of Palestinian ‘refugees,’” New York Post, December 27, 2017, https://nypost.com/2017/12/27/trump-should-crack-down-on-unrwa-finally-end-fiction-of-palestinian-refugees/

[5] “Richard Goldberg, “Trump should crack down on UNRWA, finally end fiction of Palestinian ‘refugees,’” New York Post, December 27, 2017, https://nypost.com/2017/12/27/trump-should-crack-down-on-unrwa-finally-end-fiction-of-palestinian-refugees/

[6] Foundation for Defense of Democracies, “Our Team,” http://www.defenddemocracy.org/about-fdd/team-overview/richard-goldberg1/

[7] Meredith Shiner, “Has Kirk’s Office Been Running a Secret Anti-Hagel Campaign?” Roll Call, January 9, 2013, http://www.rollcall.com/news/has_kirks_office_been_running_a_secret_anti_hagel_campaign-220664-1.html

[8] Meredith Shiner, “Has Kirk’s Office Been Running a Secret Anti-Hagel Campaign?” Roll Call, January 9, 2013, http://www.rollcall.com/news/has_kirks_office_been_running_a_secret_anti_hagel_campaign-220664-1.html

[9] Lara Friedman, “The Stealth Campaign to Use U.S. Law to Support Settlements: In Congress,” Foundation for Middle East Peace, July 31, 2017, http://fmep.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/pending-BDS-Conflation-bills-in-Congress.pdf

[10] Bill Chambers, “Why is the Anti-BDS Lobby Celebrating Their Non-Victory in Illinois?” Chicago Monitor, May 22, 2015, http://chicagomonitor.com/2015/05/what-is-the-anti-bds-lobby-celebrating-in-their-victory-in-illinois/

[11] Tina Sfondeles, “Gov hopeful Biss dumps alderman as running mate over Israel remarks,” Chicago Sun-Times, September 6, 2017, https://chicago.suntimes.com/news/gov-hopeful-biss-dumps-alderman-as-running-mate-after-israel-remarks/

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Goldberg, Richard Résumé

Foundation for Defense of Democracies: Senior Adviser

Office of Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL): Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Foreign Policy Advisor, 2004-2014
Office of Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner: Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative Affairs, Chief of Staff 2015-2017
US Navy Reserve

Rapid Global Solutions: Founder

Northwestern University: Bachelor of Science, Journalism
Northwestern University: Masters Degree, Public Policy


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