Russian bank Sberbank has now admitted to hiring a lobbying firm connected to the Hillary Clinton campaign to fight sanctions against the Russian government. The Podesta Group was founded by John Podesta, who served as campaign chairman for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her 2016 presidential campaign.
According to senate lobbying disclosure forms, John’s brother and current head of the firm, Tony Podesta, was paid $170,000 in 2016 to represent Sberbank to end one of the Obama administration’s economic sanctions against Russia.
Podesta and other lobbyists worked Congress and set up meetings between the Russians and State Department officials to discuss ways to end the sanctions imposed in Executive Order 13660 in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Sberbank and VTB Capital—the first and second largest banks in Russia, respectively—paid $700,000 for the lobbying work.
The report of paid lobbying by people associated with Clinton campaign comes on the heels of a disclosure by the Russian government that Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak met with advisers to the Clinton campaign during the 2016 election.
While seemingly benign, Ambassador Kislyak’s meetings with Trump campaign officials during the election have proved to be controversial, as Kislyak is considered a “top spy” and recruiter by U.S. intelligence, according to CNN.
Whether Kislyak was able to recruit any advisers to Hillary Clinton to work for Russian intelligence remains unknown.
The recent news stories are not the first time connections between the Clinton campaign and Russia have been revealed. Bloomberg News reported last August that Russian oligarchs allied with Russian President Vladimir Putin made political contributions to Hillary Clinton.
Specifically, money came from the family members of Leonard Blavatnik, Oleg Baibakov, and Roman Abramovich—all of whom have an interest in the political system maintained by Russian President Vladimir Putin. They were some of the biggest beneficiaries of Russia’s crash privatization scheme after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The extent to which the Clinton campaign was connected to the Russian government has yet to be fully investigated.