According to the Daily Caller News Foundation (DC), the Podesta Group did not register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act after they represented a Russian-owned company, Uranium One, during former President Barack Obama’s administration.
Tony Podesta is John Podesta’s brother; John was failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager. Together, the brothers co-founded the Podesta Group, a liberal-leaning lobbying firm.
Tony Podesta has been linked to the controversial 2010 Uranium One deal, in which a cabinet-led federal committee that included former Secretary of State Clinton approved the sale of Uranium One to RUSANO, the Russian State Corporation for Nuclear Energy. The sale allowed Russia to acquire twenty percent of America’s uranium reserves.
The sale of Uranium One to Russia is under three separate congressional committee investigations. They are attempting to determine whether large financial gifts given to Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation, received from Russians and Uranium One’s owner and CEO, helped the sale to go through.
The DC reports that Tony Podesta collected lobbying fees of $180,000 from Uranium One, according to documents filed with Congress.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the investigation into unproven allegations of collusion between Russian agents and the Trump campaign, is already investigating the Podesta Group and Tony Podesta. Mueller’s investigation veered to the lobbying firm’s activities when investigators were examining former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s finances.
Investigators found that the Podesta Group was one of the several firms paid to do work on a public relations campaign to promote Ukraine in the U.S. Podesta and his firm allegedly failed to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) as a lobbyist for the European Center for a Modern Ukraine, a Ukrainian government entity.
According to the DC: The Podesta Group did not file under FARA during any of the years when it lobbied both Congress and the executive branch, according to the Justice Department website.
Reporting requirements under FARA demand far more rigorous public disclosure requirements — including contract information — than reports filed under congressional lobbying disclosure rules.
“The Podesta Group takes legal compliance seriously, and it complied with the law here,” a Podesta Group company spokesman told the DC.
Question about filings required of a company that represents foreign government entities were brought to light after Mueller issued a multiple-count indictment of Manafort and Richard Gates, Manafort’s long-time business associate, which included failure to register under FARA.
The indictment states that Manafort and Gates “knowingly and willfully, without registering with the Attorney General as required by law, acted as agents of a foreign principal, to wit, the Government of Ukraine.”
The Special Counsel’s action brought FARA compliance new scrutiny.
“It’s good to see the Justice Department taking seriously its responsibility to enforce the Foreign Agents Registration Act,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa (R). “I’ve been raising concerns about lackluster enforcement of this foreign influence disclosure law for years now, regardless of administration or political party. The dirty little secret is that lots of people across the political spectrum in Washington have skirted their FARA registration obligations for years with little to no accountability.”
According to NBC News, the Podesta Group is referred to throughout the Manafort indictment as “Company B.”
Some analysts say Mueller is “sending a signal” about getting tough on FARA enforcement.
Mueller’s Special Counsel has subpoenaed Podesta to testify and has requested records from the Podesta Group. After Mueller’s investigation began, John Podesta stepped down from his role at the Podesta group, handing over operational and financial control of the firm to its CEO.
The committees investigating Uranium One are the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and the Senate Judiciary Committee.
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