Worked with Manafort on Ukraine campaign.
Now Tony Podesta has decided to leave his lobbying company the Podesta Group after Special Counsel Robert Mueller included the group in his investigation.
Politico reported that Podesta, the brother of John Podesta, failed Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, announced the decision this morning:
Podesta is handing over full operational and financial control to longtime firm CEO Kimberley Fritts, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the meeting. Fritts and a senior group of the Podesta team will be launching a new firm in the next one or two days. Sources said the transition has been in the works for the past several months.
“[Tony] was very magnanimous and said, “This is an amazing group of people,” a source said of Podesta’s remarks. Podesta also told staff he “doesn’t intend to go quietly, or learn how to play golf.” He said he “needs to fight this as an individual, but doesn’t want the firm to fight it.”
Fritts also addressed the gathering, telling staff that she is “thrilled at this opportunity” and that, “This is not about me, this is about y’all.” Several other senior staff spoke about their excitement about the future of the firm. The meeting ended with a resounding ovation for Podesta.
On October 23, reports came out that Mueller included the Podesta Group after Mueller investigated Manafort’s finances. His finances included a campaign for the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECMU), which the Podesta Group worked on.
The investigation started as a “fact-finding mission,” but eventually became “a criminal inquiry into whether the firm violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act, known as FARA.” That act requires anyone who chooses to “lobby on behalf of foreign governments, leaders or political parties” to “file detailed disclosures about their spending and activities witjh the Justice Department.”
The Podesta Group filed a FARA registration after these payments emerged, which the Associated Press reported on in August 2016:
After being introduced to the lobbying firms, the European nonprofit paid the Podesta Group $1.13 million between June 2012 and April 2014 to lobby Congress, the White House National Security Council, the State Department and other federal agencies, according to U.S. lobbying records.
The nonprofit also paid $1.07 million over roughly the same period to Mercury to lobby Congress. Among other issues, Mercury opposed congressional efforts to pressure Ukraine to release one of Yanukovych’s political rivals from prison.
One former Podesta employee, speaking on condition of anonymity because of a non-disclosure agreement, said Gates described the nonprofit’s role in an April, 2012 meeting as supplying a source of money that could not be traced to the Ukrainian politicians who were paying him and Manafort.
In separate interviews, three current and former Podesta employees said disagreements broke out within the firm over the arrangement, which at least one former employee considered obviously illegal. Podesta, who said the project was vetted by his firm’s counsel, said he was unaware of any such disagreements.
Politico reported that the Podesta Group has suffered since its inclusion in the Mueller investigation:
More than a dozen of its lobbying clients have cut ties with the firm this year, according to lobbying filings. Revenues have also declined: The firm brought in an estimated $4.8 million in the third quarter of 2017, down from $5.2 million in the second quarter of 2017 and from $6.1 million in the third quarter of 2016.
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