Explore Ukrainian influence battles with foreign lobbying docs

Picture of deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych
Deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The struggle in Ukraine between supporters of deposed President Viktor Yanukovych and those calling for regime change has spilled into the halls of Congress and the State Department.

Documents showing how both sides in the far-off battle have taken their case to Washington are available on Document Cloud, where Sunlight uploads them as part of the foundation’s effort to make registrations filed under the Foreign Agent Registration Act searchable and sortable. Document Cloud is a public site created by Investigative Reporters and Editors, a journalism cooperative.

A search through Sunlight’s FARA documents using the key word “Ukraine” shows that K Street powerhouses have lined up on all sides of the battle. Not only to these documents show which government officials have been contacted by the lobbyists on behalf of dissidents and pro-government groups, they also reveal that Russian entities, such as the Gazprom, have entered the public relations fray against Ukraine.

Among the entities collecting lobbying fees from various parties in the battle: public relations powerhouse Ketchum (which represented Gazprom, which has been dunning Ukraine for gas bills), Democratic political strategist Doug Schoen, and Tauzin Consultants, a lobbying firm run by ex-Rep. Billy Tauzin.

Sunlight, along with a host of other news outlets, has reported on the ongoing lobbying by opposing Ukrainian interests — and the disclosure issues facing observers trying to track the lobbying trail. While the pro-Yanukovych European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECMU) has avoided the more rigorous disclosure process required of foreign governments by the Foreign Agent Registration Act, plenty of groups with a hand in the ongoing struggle are registered in the FARA database.

Arnall Golden, which represents the Ukrainian parliament member Dmitry Shpenov, listed meetings with a number of Capitol Hill lawmakers on the nation’s energy plans, including House Speaker John Boehner.

As Kevin Bogardus of The Hill reported, Oleksander Tymoshenko — husband of former opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko — has paid more than $920,000 over the past year to powerhouse lobbying firm Wiley Rein. Here, former Rep. Jim Slattery, D-Kan., has lobbied members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and top figures in the White House and State Department — including President Barack Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — to pressure the Yanukovych administration to release his wife from prison, where she had been since 2011. Veteran Foreign Relations committee member Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has been one of the most vocal proponents of the jailed prime minister’s release.

FARA documents filed by Wiley Rein also show Slattery was in direct contact with President Yanukovych — among other Ukrainian politicians — last February, meeting with the president to discuss the “status of [the] case and possible resolution.” Yulia Tymoshenko was freed from prison in February.

Wiley Rein, however, is not the only horse in this race. As reported by Reuters, K Street firms Mercury and the Podesta Group were paid some $560,000 and $900,000 respectively by ECMU for such topics as “[i]ssues pertaining to relations between Ukraine and the United States” to pushing back against H.R. 28, which would formally condemn the “persecution of political opposition leader Yulia as well as other political prisoners…”

A list of contacts made by lobbyists representing Ukrainian interests are viewable in FARA documents collected by Sunlight from the Department of Justice.