A powerhouse Washington lobbying firm linked to influential Democrats failed to disclose lucrative work it did for Ukrainian political figures closely tied to Russia and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, according to CNN.
“The firm, the Podesta Group, said nothing in a 2012 lobbying report to Congress about at least 32 meetings, emails and other communications it had with the State Department, at a time when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was scrutinizing Ukraine’s upcoming election, records show,” CNN reported Tuesday.
“The new disclosures shed light on the web of contacts between Russian-leaning Ukrainians, Washington lobbyists and U.S. policymakers during the Obama administration. The Podesta Group filed new, detailed lobbying disclosures in April to augment lobbying reports from 2012 to 2014 that had given little detail,” CNN said.
The latest revelations about the Podesta firm add to those previously reported by The Daily Caller News Foundation’s (TheDCNF) Investigative Group.
TheDCNF reported March 7, 2017, that Tony Podesta, one of the firm’s co-founders, “failed to register under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) when he agreed to represent Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank in 2016.”
A spokesman told TheDCNF then that the firm had registered under a different law because it was only representing Sberbank’s U.S. subsidiary. Known informally as the “KGB bank,” Sberbank is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and to Russian intelligence services.
John Podesta, Tony’s brother, co-founded the lobbying firm. John was national campaign chairman for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential campaign. He was also a senior adviser to President Barack Obama and White House Chief of Staff under President Bill Clinton.
CNN said the Podesta lobbying firm “was representing a Ukrainian nonprofit, the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, as it sought to counter the Obama administration’s critical stance toward Ukraine’s pro-Russia government and Congress’ growing annoyance with Ukraine’s leaders.”
The cable news outlet also reported that the firm did not disclose contacts it had with officials in the offices of Vice President Joe Biden, the White House National Security Council and multiple congressional offices.
A firm spokesman told CNN the latter contacts represented “public relations” efforts rather than lobbying activities and thus were not covered disclosure requirements.
The firm’s lobbying on behalf of the Ukrainian nonprofit culminated in the days immediately preceding and after a presidential election in that country in 2012, according to CNN. Prior to the election, Hillary Clinton, then the chief U.S. diplomat, expressed concerns about how opposition candidates and workers were being abused.
After the voting, CNN said the Podesta firm “in the two weeks before and after Ukraine’s election … had near-daily contact with the State Department, holding seven meetings, conducting ‘outreach’ on seven days and having conversations or email exchanges on 11 days, including with top department officials. The Podesta Group also had contact with the National Security Council on seven days in that same period.”
A former State Department employee who participated in meetings with the firm during that time period told CNN that the Podesta representatives “were pretty open about their purpose being to give a positive perspective on the upcoming election.”
Manafort also represented the Ukrainian nonprofit but declined to comment for CNN. The Podesta spokesman told CNN the firm’s work for the Ukrainian nonprofit was overseen by a Manafort associate.
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