After losing his re-election bid in 2010, former North Dakota congressman Earl Pomeroy went into the lobbying industry. He works with Alston & Bird, and according to a NBC News report his firm signed a deal to lobby on behalf of Russia:
An engagement letter between Alston & Bird and Ketchum to represent Russian interests dated Dec. 24 was signed by Bob Jones, a partner at Alston & Bird, and describes a monthly fee of $15,000 per month for the law firm. Jones is listed on Alston & Bird’s website as the leader of the firm’s legislative and public policy group, and described as having represented prominent corporate clients in Washington. His Alston & Bird biography does not list any work on behalf of the Russian government.
Jones declined to comment for this article, and an Alston & Bird employee referred CNBC to Ketchum. A Ketchum document shows that Alston & Bird was paid $100,000 on behalf of the Russian Federation over a six-month period in 2013.
So what exactly does Alston & Bird do on behalf of the Russians? It’s not entirely clear. A filing with the Justice Department says simply that “Alston & Bird will gather information and provide advice and analysis on various areas of international politics, and U.S. foreign and foreign economic policy, which affect the bilateral U.S.-Russian relationship.”
A search of the lobbying databases for the House and the Senate didn’t reveal Pomeroy as a registered lobbyist for any Russian interests, but Alston & Bird just signed on with Ketchum on Christmas Eve of last year, so perhaps they haven’t done any lobbying as yet.
As to what Alston & Bird might be doing on behalf of Russian interests, as the story notes there’s no hard facts. But we can make an educated guess.
It’s worth remembering that Gazprom (a state-owned Russian gas company that is the modern corporate iteration of the Soviet-era Ministry of Gas Industry) has a big interest in the debate over trade restrictions on exported US natural gas. Currently domestic gas producers, just like domestic oil producers, cannot export their unrefined product. Gas and oil, with a few exceptions, must be refined in the US before export.
Domestic oil and gas producers want the Obama administration and/or Congress to lift those restrictions and allow the sale of US gas and oil directly to the international market.
Given that a resurgent Russia counts on its massive oil and gas interests as a foundation for its financial clout, they’re concerned about the idea of competing with American oil and gas suppliers.
Which is the sort of issue you hire lobbyists to tackle.
Update: I emailed Pomeroy asking about his involvement this afternoon. “I am not involved in this nor was I aware of the filing.,” he said in a reply email. “Alston Bird has someone who has done some work for Russian businesses seeking to increase their export opportunities. I expect the filing is about that.”
Rob, one of the domestic clients I represent is Conoco Phillips, a significant participant in the Bakken. I will NOT be representing any entity whose interests are at odds with North Dakota’s economic interests on issues like oil and gas exports.