Following the money is difficult and tedious. Each story is detailed, and the stories appear at different times, later overshadowed by the next Trump scandal. In this post, I collect instances of Russian-associated money going into Republican coffers.
There aren’t enough instances to connect into a pattern beyond that theme, although some names occur in more than one example. I hope reporters will see this as a fertile path forward. Foreign money is prohibited in US political campaigns, but there are ways to get around that.
There are probably more – add them in the comments, preferably with a link, if you have them.
Rusal Aluminum Rolling Mill in Kentucky
Shortly after sanctions against Russia were lifted in early 2019, Rusal, a Russian metals company in which Oleg Deripaska has an interest, announced that it would participate in building an aluminum rolling mill in Ashland, Kentucky. Mitch McConnell, of course, is from Kentucky. (Washington Post, New York Times)
Dallas Morning News, Updated May 2018
Donations from several Russian-associated American citizens to campaigns of Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, and Lindsey Graham are documented. The donors are Len Blavatnik, Andrew Intrater, Alexander Shustorovich, and Simon Kukes. There are connections among them and to Rusal, in which Blavatnik holds a 20.5% stake with Viktor Vekselberg. Blavatnik gave $6.35 million to GOP political action committees in 2015-2016, including $2 million from one of his companies to McConnell’s PAC.
Vekselberg is the president of the Renova Group, a Russian conglomerate with interests in aluminum, energy, and other sectors. Intrater is the chief executive of Columbus Nova, Renova’s US investment arm.
Shustorovich, chief executive of IMG Artists, attempted to give the Republican Party $250K in 2000 to support the Bush campaign, but his money was rejected because of his ties to the Russian government. $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.
From 1998 to 2003, Kukes worked for Vekselberg and Blavatnik. He contributed a total of $283K, much of it to the Trump Victory Fund. He had no significant donor history before that election.
Steven Mnuchin owned a Hollywood financing company with Blavatnik until he sold his stake to accept Trump’s appointment as Treasury Secretary.
The Citizens United decision made these contributions legal.
A quote from the May 17, 2017, Washington Post:
A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016, exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy….
News had just broken the day before in The Washington Post that Russian government hackers had penetrated the computer network of the Democratic National Committee, prompting McCarthy to shift the conversation from Russian meddling in Europe to events closer to home.
Some of the lawmakers laughed at McCarthy’s comment. Then McCarthy quickly added: “Swear to God.”
Ryan instructed his Republican lieutenants to keep the conversation private, saying: “No leaks. . . . This is how we know we’re a real family here.”
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman
Kevin McCarthy has said he will donate to charity funds totaling about $185,000 received from Rudy Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. His campaign organizations received the money just before McCarthy called for US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovich to be removed from her job. Parnas and Fruman have received some of their money from Dmytro Firtash, who is in Austria, fighting extradition to the US on bribery charges and has been a front man for the Kremlin in attempting to gain control of Ukrainian natural gas supplies. Giuliani, who Trump says is his lawyer, has accepted money from Parnas and Fruman. Investigation continues.
Michael Cohen and Essential Consultants Inc.
Columbus Nova, mentioned in the Dallas Morning News article, paid $500,000 to Michael Cohen’s shell company, Essential Consultants Inc. That company was the vehicle for paying hush money to one of Donald Trump’s mistresses. Viktor Vekselberg and Andrew Intrater were involved. Cohen was the treasurer of the Republican Party, and this payment may have been made while he was in that post.
National Rifle Association (NRA)
The NRA has been closely associated with the Republican Party in fighting limitations on gun ownership. Maria Butina infiltrated the organization as a Russian agent, establishing “lines of communication to advance Russian interests.” An 18-month investigation by the Senate Finance Committee’s Democratic staff found that the NRA supported Butina’s activities and those of her supervisor, Alexander Torshin in setting up a trip for NRA executives to travel to Russia with the expectation of enhancing their personal business activities. Such use of a nonprofit’s funds is illegal.
A counterintelligence investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 election preceded the Mueller investigation, was folded into it, and still continues. We need to hear more from that investigation. That investigation may have turned up the hacking of the Republican National Committee by Russians, from which no information has been leaked.
Hotel in Azerbaijan and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard
This money in this story is not Russian, but rather from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The Trump organization may have laundered money for the Revolutionary Guard through a hotel built in Baku, Azerbaijan. The New Yorker’s Adam Davidson did the investigation and has been trying to get the attention of other media on Twitter, given the current hostilities with Iran. Here’s one of his Twitter threads.
Not money, but it might be useful to cross-check the 16 times that Trump has spoken privately with Vladimir Putin.
Paul Manafort worked for Deripaska and owed him millions of dollars.
This may not be a full listing of Russian money going to Republican candidates and organizations. If you have other examples, add them in the comments, preferably with links.
Russia is not a friend of the United States, so one might ask a number of questions. Why are Republicans willing to accept Russian money? Is there similar evidence for Democrats? The account in the Dallas Morning News says that they are reporting on “99% Republican donations.” Does this money influence officeholders’ opinions and votes?
Seems important to me.
Cross-posted to Balloon Juice