Democrat super-lobbyist Tony Podesta was paid $170,000 over a six-month period last year to represent Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, seeking to end one of the Obama administration’s economic sanctions against that country, The Daily Caller reports.
Podesta, founder and chairman of the Podesta Group, is listed as a key lobbyist on behalf of Sberbank, according to Senate lobbying disclosure forms.
His firm received more than $24 million in fees in 2016, much of it coming from foreign governments, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Podesta is the brother of John Podesta, who was the national campaign chairman for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
The sanctions were imposed by former President Obama following the Russian takeover of Crimea in 2014.
Tony Podesta’s lobbying campaign targeted Congress and Obama himself, with at least two meeting between Sberbank and State Department officials, according to Elena Teplitskaya, Sberbank’s board chairman, who spoke to House aides in August.
The revelation that high-profile leftists like Podesta were lobbying against Russian sanctions contrasts with allegations that President Trump is soft on Russia while Obama took a hardline stance.
Podesta’s efforts were a key part of under-the-radar lobbying during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign led mainly by veteran Democratic strategists to remove sanctions against Sberbank and VTB Capital, Russia’s second largest bank.
The two Russian banks spent more than $700,000 in 2016 on Washington lobbyists as they sought to end the U.S. sanctions, according to Senate lobbying disclosure forms and documents filed with the Department of Justice.
The Podesta Group charged Sberbank $20,000 per month, plus expenses, on a contract from March through September 2016.
Podesta enjoys close personal and business connections with Presidents Obama and Bill Clinton. His brother John was chief of staff in the Clinton White House and special counselor for Barack Obama.
Both Sberbank and VTB Capital face severe cash shortages due to plunging oil prices, plus the U.S. sanctions. If the economic sanctions were lifted, however, both banks could legally seek funds from American financial institutions.
“The Democrats are sitting there trying to convince us that the Russians are trying to throw the election to Trump,” a congressional aide who requested anonymity and met Teplitskaya told TheDCNF.
“And then they’re with us here in the House and meeting directly with the administration behind closed doors on the issue of the sanctions. The hypocrisy could not be any richer,” he said.
The Podesta group represented Sberbnk and its subsidiaries, some of which funneled millions of dollars to environmental groups to oppose low-cost U.S. fracking for natural gas, which hurts the Russian oil industry.
The Podesta Group also represents dozens of foreign embassies in Washington, as well as many authoritarian regimes like Vietnam, Myanmar and Somalia. The lobbying firm also represents political parties in Moldova and Albania, according to its Foreign Agents Registration Act filing.