Did Mercury Public Affairs participate in a scheme to obscure its Ukrainian lobbying?
.. Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman from Minnesota turned DC power-lobbyist, was a foreign policy adviser to presidential candidate Mitt Romney and in line for a top administration job, should Romney win the White House.
.. The work was lucrative—it ultimately netted Mercury more than $1.1 million—but problematic. It might have required Weber to register as a foreign agent for a regime known for its close ties to Russia, which Romney famously denounced as America’s top geopolitical threat. That, in turn, might have complicated Weber’s chances of landing a job in a Romney White House.
.. Prosecutors charge that Manafort and Gates arranged for a Brussels-based think tank, the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, to be “the nominal client” of Mercury and the Podesta Group
.. the former congressman pushed for Mercury and Podesta to avoid registering with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, as agents for Ukraine.
.. The “Centre is funded by a group of Ukrainian business people,” not Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, a spokeswoman for the firm inaccurately told the Daily Beast at the time.
.. The Podesta Group eventually agreed to skip registering under FARA after insisting that the firms also obtain a written certification from the European Centre that it was not funded or controlled by a foreign government or a political party
.. It has kept up its foreign lobbying business, in recent months signing on as one of a number of DC firms lobbying for Qatar.
.. Last month, Mercury registered to represent the Turkey-US Business Council, a group formerly headed by a shadowy businessman, Ekim Alptekin, who in 2016 arranged for Michael Flynn to secretly work for Turkey
.. Gates and Manafort held weekly calls with Mercury and the Podesta Group “to provide them directions as to specific lobbying steps that should be taken,” and “both congratulated and reprimanded” the firms “on their lobbying work,”
.. allege that both Mercury and Podesta “were paid for their services not by their nominal client, the Centre, but solely through offshore accounts” controlled by Manafort.