A couple of weeks ago I reported that former North Dakota congressman Earl Pomeroy’s lobbying firm, Alston & Bird, was working for Russians. “I am not involved in this nor was I aware of the filing.,” Pomeroy told me in an email seeking comment about the relationship. “Alston Bird has someone who has done some work for Russian businesses seeking to increase their export opportunities.”
Today we find out that “some work” is $1.4 million worth, and that Alston & Bird, along with public relations giant Ketchum (to whom Pomeroy’s firm is a subcontractor on the Russian work) are “Sticking with Putin” according to the headline from The Hill:
The public relations giant Ketchum has earned more than $26 million representing Russia, and is keeping the country as a client despite the widely denounced incursion into Crimea by the Russian military.
“Our work continues to focus on supporting economic development and investment in the country and facilitating the relationship between representatives of the Russian Federation and the Western media. We are not advising the Russian Federation on foreign policy, including the current situation in Ukraine,” said a Ketchum spokeswoman.
Ketchum has worked for the Russian government since 2006, when it helped the country prepare for the G8 Summit in St. Petersburg. The firm held with research and media rollout for Putin’s 2007 “Person of the Year” award by Time Magazine and contacted The New York Times last year about an op-ed written by the Russian president, according to Justice Department records.
Putin’s government has also paid out handsomely to Alston & Bird, a law and lobby firm under subcontract with Ketchum to represent Russia. That firm has earned almost $1.4 million since coming on board with Ketchum in 2009, according to Justice records.
An Alston & Bird official directed questions about representing Russia to Ketchum.
With America’s energy production surging thanks to shale oil and gas plays in places like North Dakota, Russia has a major interest in American politics. Policies like restrictions on oil and gas exports (which US producers want lifted) have a major impact on Russian interests.
For his part, Pomeroy says he has no foreign clients, and would not take any clients with interests running contrary to North Dakota energy production. “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,” he told me in an email.
Meanwhile, over the weekend the Crimean region voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia, but there are serious questions about the vote, especially given the presence of the Russian military. According to official results, over 95% of ballots were cast for secession. But as late as 2013, only 23% in Crimea supported secession, and in one Crimean city voter turnout was…123 percent.