Ukraine’s relentless lobbyists move into Congress
As tensions between Russia and Ukraine continue to escalate, Ukrainian government actors in Washington have stepped up their efforts to influence.
A new analysis by the Quincy Institute’s Ben Freeman found that Ukraine’s government hired nearly a dozen firms registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and spent about $2 million last year on firms trying to register used for them. In a telephone interview, Freeman described the Ukrainian lobby as “small but mighty”. The American Conservativeand said her efforts to influence Washington and America’s political apparatus are intense relative to her modest budget.
While Ukrainian lobbyists have mainly focused on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline given Russia’s build-up along Ukraine’s borders, they have also delved into Ukrainian security issues and promoting support for Ukraine’s political system. Completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline would allow Russia to export natural gas directly to core Europe via Germany. The pipeline would cut out Ukrainian intermediaries, who would continue to collect hundreds of millions of dollars in energy transit fees annually if the pipeline’s completion were prevented. At the beginning of his tenure, Biden waived sanctions against the construction of Nord Stream 2.
FARAdisclosureshow Yorktown Solutions, one of the lobbying firms hired by the Ukrainian government to work behind the scenes, received almost $1 million from the Ukraine Federation of the Employers of the Oil and Exchange between December 1, 2020 and November 30 Gas Industry (UFEOGI). 2021. UFEOGI members includes the state-owned Naftogaz and several other energy-related joint-stock companies and subsidiaries. During the same period, UFEOGI’s Yorktown lobbyists made more than 11,000 connections – meetings, emails and phone calls – with government officials (from Congress to the State Department and the National Security Council), think tanks (such as the Atlantic Council). and the Heritage Foundation) and media companies (such as foreign policythat Wall Street Journal, Bloombergand NBC News). Freeman told TAC he had “never seen anything as comprehensive” as Yorktown’s efforts in its more than decade-long history of analyzing FARA disclosures.
Yorktown’s FARA reporting shows its lobbyists met with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and at least two of his employeesNational Security Advisor Omri Ceren and Senior Legislative Assistant Samantha Leahy, on July 20, 2021. Yorktown President and signatory to the firm’s FARA disclosures, Daniel Vajdich, served in Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign as senior national security adviser and chair of the Russia Work Group .
In light of recent developments near the Ukrainian border, Cruz introduced a bill to reinstate sanctions on construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
As Cruz’s bill headed for a Senate vote, Yorktown sent a letter titled “Nord Stream 2 Pipeline – Facts on the Ground,” so Politically National security Newsletter on January 12th. Vajdich told Politically The letter was emailed to about half of the Republican faction in the Senate and almost all of the Democratic members.
A follow-up edition of Politically National Security Daily, Jan. 21 marked Ceren in his Drinks with Natsec Daily column. “When he’s not working with his boss to re-impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2, Ceren can be found on the patio at Morton’s Steakhouse sipping a vodka soda. In a pinch or just to drink, Ceren takes a Diet Coke, but that’s clearly not his preferred option,” reads the Lockheed Martin-sponsored newsletter. “Cheers, Omri!” it added.
While Cruz was able to negotiate with Democratic leaders in the Senate to get the bill put to a vote, the legislation ultimately passed failed to collect the 60 votes needed to overcome the Senate filibuster. The number of votes was 55 yes votes, 44 no votes. Even before the vote, it was expected that the bill would fail amid partisan disagreements in the Senate.
Though they couldn’t get Cruz’s bill through, UFEOGI’s efforts in Washington are moving ahead apace. On July 16, 2021, UFEOGI signed a new one contract with lobbying firm Arent Fox worth $1.26 million to lobby for the Nord Stream 2 sanctions among other Ukrainian energy issues. FARA documents Show Arent Fox was paid $315,000 “for legal services” upfront, though the contract was canceled just over three months after it was signed.
Freeman speculated to TAC that Arent Fox exceeded UFEOGI’s expectations given the number of contacts disclosed by FARA made by other firms lobbying on behalf of Ukraine, such as Yorktown Solution’s hundreds of contact pages, compared to Arent Fox , which reported only 10 unfulfilled contacts over the three-month period. So it appears that UFEOGI aren’t giving Fox at least $30,000 for every political connection the company made on their behalf.
But the fruitless relationship between UFEOGI and Arent Fox, Freeman told TAC, is uncharacteristic of the Ukraine lobby. “I’m not exactly sure how Ukrainians get so much bang for their buck when it comes to hiring these lobbyists, but whatever they do, it works because these foreign agents are just working overtime for Ukrainian interests,” he said he .
Another lobbying firm, Karv Communications, receive Nearly $120,000 from UFEOGI between July 9, 2021, the day the two signed the contract, through October 31, 2021. The focus of Karv Communications’ public relations efforts was to reach prominent news outlets, according to FARA disclosures – the New York Timesthat Wall Street Journalthat Washington Post, CNNand many more – to interview members of the UFEOGI leadership, place opinion pieces and discuss Ukrainian energy policy.
Because exposing the activities of foreign lobbyists could limit their influence, Freeman said, “lobbyists’ goal is the opposite of that. They know that the less informed the public is about what’s going on with these issues, and the less the media writes stories about what they’re doing, they can achieve the greatest success for their clients.” Freeman plans to release a full report , which outlines the extent of Ukraine’s lobbying activities over the course of this spring.
Although Ukraine’s lobbying forces are rather small compared to those of big lobbying nations like Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia, the Ukrainian lobby is a good reminder that foreign governments and their agents spend a lot of time and money trying to understand the origins of the Wurst in Washington. Narratives are massaged, tested by focus groups, and massaged even more. Policies are packaged and pushed (sometimes unsuccessfully) through Congress and delivered in hard copy to Americans’ doors overnight. Uncomfortable positions, like a hot war with Russia over Ukraine, are force-fed to the public via social media or cable news. Best not to bite.