PPP/C hires firm named in probe into Russia’s meddling in US elections

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PPP General Secretary, Bharrat Jagdeo saunters outside of Capitol Hill, Washington, DC for the promised meeting by the lobby firm with US Congressmen

…pays $31.4M up-front for services

In what appeared to be a desperate bid to return to office the Bharrat Jagdeo-led People’s Progressive Party has hired the us lobby group, Mercury Public Affairs, to help run its elections campaign.

The firm is urrently embroiled in the probe into alleged Russian interference in U.S. elections. Jagdeo is quoted in the PPP-run INews Guyana as saying that the move is “proactive” and shows that the party understands “modern geopolitics”. He added: “This is how American policy is shaped and the most effective way to counter APNU/AFC misrepresentation…” He said too that the hiring of the firm “is a small one to pay for the protection of our democracy and it is a harbinger of how a future PPPC administration will influence policy decisions regarding our country in a very positive manner”. Jagdeo has had a history of hiring persons with questionable reputation. During his Presidency he had contracted disgraced former New York Police Department head Bernard Kerik as his security adviser and had refused to go back on his decision despite the many negative reports about Kerik and his past. Kerik later withdrew from the assignment.

Kerik was sentenced to four years in prison in February 2010 after a federal judge blasted him for using his high-profile part in the city’s 9/11 response to make money. Kerik’s guilty plea in a November 2009 plea deal including admissions that he lied to the White House, filed false tax returns and lied about US$255,000 in work done by a mob-linked contractor.

The contract
The contract signed on March 5, 2019 by PPP Executive Secretary, Zulfikar Mustapha. According to the contract which was seen by this newspaper the firm will provide strategic consulting and management services specific to issues facing the party in areas of government relations and issues management. The services according to contract shall include but not limited to representing the party before and arranging meetings with the Executive Branch and the Congress of the United States, the Organisation of American States and think-tanks in connection with issues relating to the anticipated general and regional elections. Additionally, according to the contract the PPP agreed to pay the firm US$ 150,000, US$100,000 of which had to be paid at the time of the signing of the contract and the remainder on May 1, 2019. The PPP also agreed to pay and reimburse the firm for all business expenses in providing the services for it. The party also has to pay the lobby firm for all filing fees, costs and expenses paid or incurred related to compliance requirements in any jurisdictions.

Probe still on
Only on Monday Reuters News agency reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in U.S. politics is over, but prosecutors are still investigating two prominent Washington lobbyists for their work for the former pro-Russian government of Ukraine, according to three sources close to the probe.

According to the Reuters rep[ort in a sign that evidence from Mueller’s 22-month investigation may yet ensnare more prominent Washington figures, federal prosecutors in Washington cited a former U.S. congressman “working for the government of Ukraine” in charges filed Thursday against former Obama administration official Greg Craig. Craig pleaded not guilty on Friday to lobbying violations and making false statements. The former congressman is not named in Craig’s indictment, but other filings by his former law firm cite identical work done for the firm by Vin Weber, a lobbyist with Mercury Public Affairs, who was a U.S. representative from Minnesota from 1981 to 1993.

Weber disclosed his work for a Ukrainian think tank, but he did not register as a foreign agent for the government of Ukraine under a the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which would have required him to spell out his activity in detail, according to a Reuters review of lobbying records.

The Department of Justice is stepping up FARA enforcement after decades of inactivity. Mueller’s investigation has not led to criminal conspiracy charges against Trump or his former associates, but it has exposed previously hidden foreign lobbying activity by some of Washington’s most prominent lobbyists and prompted a flurry of new registrations since 2017. U.S. Attorney General William Barr is expected to release a redacted version of Mueller’s findings next week.

Three sources familiar with the investigation said federal prosecutors in Manhattan are examining work done for Ukraine by both Weber and Tony Podesta, brother of John Podesta, a top official of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Democratic presidential campaign and a former White House adviser. A spokesperson for Weber and for Mercury declined to comment. Tony Podesta also declined to comment. The FARA crackdown has factored in cases against Craig, Craig’s former law firm Skadden Arps and Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman now serving a 7-1/2 year prison sentence for lobbying and financial crimes. Other lobbyists have rushed to comply with the law. As of April, 446 separate entities registered with the Justice Department, up from 387 at the end of 2016.