Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Ukrainian Struggle, Euromaidan Pull out the Big Guns...Washington Lobbyists

Rival political factions facing each other on the streets of Ukraine have also enlisted heavyweight lobbyists in Washington, some with connections at the highest levels of U.S. government, to promote their causes to American policymakers, media and members of Congress.

Among the high-profile lobbyists registered to represent organizations backing Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich's government are prominent Democratic lobbyist Anthony Podesta and former Republican congressional leaders Vin Weber and Billy Tauzin.

Meanwhile, Yanukovich's most prominent political rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister who is serving a seven-year prison term for alleged abuse of power, is represented in Washington by former Democratic Congressman Jim Slattery, a partner in the law firm Wiley Rein LLP.

The sums of money involved are substantial. Over the last two years, the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, a Brussels-based organization sympathetic to Yanukovich and his political party, has paid $560,000 to Weber's firm, Mercury, and another $900,000 to Podesta Group Inc, for a total outlay of $1.46 million, according to a U.S. Senate database.

The database shows total payments over the same two years of $810,000 to Wiley Rein by Oleksandr Tymoshenko, a Ukrainian businessman and husband of Yulia.

"A lot of people are making a lot of money off Ukraine's political competition," said Bruce Jackson, president of the Project on Transitional Democracies, which advocates Western-oriented reforms in Eastern Europe.

"The Yulia-Yanukovich competition has definitely spilled out of the country. Both sides are heavily invested in representation in Washington," Jackson said. He said he and his group do not lobby.

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