Mega-Lobbyist Tony Podesta Quits Firm After Manafort Indictment

Updated on
  • Podesta called at least one client to say he’s stepping down
  • Firm had disclosed lobbying campaign for Ukrainian center

Russia Investigations: Connecting the Dots

Democratic mega-lobbyist Tony Podesta has stepped down from his 30-year-old firm as the indictment of President Donald Trump’s onetime campaign chairman drew attention to the company’s foreign advocacy, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Podesta -- whose clients have included Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Altria Group Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., Lockheed Martin Corp., Pfizer Inc. and other representatives of some of the most active industries in Washington -- has called at least one client to let them know he is leaving Podesta Group Inc., according to another person familiar with the matter. The people asked not to be identified because the decision isn’t public. Podesta didn’t respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment.

Tony Podesta

Photographer: Stephanie Green/Bloomberg

News of Podesta’s resignation followed an indictment issued Monday by U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller of Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates. The charges detailed Manafort’s clandestine influence campaign on behalf of Ukraine’s deposed president Viktor Yanukovych, including work with two unidentified companies that "lobbied multiple members of Congress and their staffs about Ukraine sanctions, the validity of Ukraine elections, and the propriety of Yanukovych’s imprisoning his presidential rival."

Mueller’s indictment identified the firms as Company A and Company B and said they were allegedly paid by Manafort with more than $2 million in offshore funds. The person who confirmed Tony Podesta’s departure said that Company B is the Podesta Group, which disclosed in April that it had worked for the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine. Company A is Mercury Public Affairs LLC, said another person familiar with the matter.

“The Podesta Group has fully cooperated with the Special Counsel’s office and taken every possible step to provide documentation that confirms compliance with the law," according to a statement the firm issued Monday.

Podesta is the brother of John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, who also served as White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton and was counselor to Barack Obama.

On Monday, Tony Podesta informed staff at a company wide meeting that he was stepping down, according to an earlier report by Politico.

Yanukovych Mouthpiece

Mercury also disclosed in an April filing with the Justice Department that it worked for the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, which the indictment said is a mouthpiece for Yanukovych.

In April, the Podesta Group and Mercury filed belated disclosures with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act outlining their work with the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine. In those filings, Podesta and Mercury said that they were unaware their work was for the Ukrainian government. The disclosures covered the period from April 2012 through April 2014.

Using identical language in those filings, both firms said that the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine had provided "written certification" that it was not controlled or financed by a foreign government or political party. According to Monday’s indictment, the center was created in 2012 and used by Manafort, Gates and others to conduct a public relations campaign in the U.S. and Europe on behalf of the Yanukovych regime.

Mercury confirmed in a statement by partner Michael McKeon that it worked with the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine for about two years beginning in 2012 to mid-2014 and said it intended to align "Ukraine with western democracies generally, and the European Union specifically, on security, political and economic issues."

McKeon said Mercury takes its obligations to follow all laws and regulations seriously and that it retained legal counsel to determine the proper way to disclose that representation and followed that advice. Mercury is cooperating with Mueller’s investigation, McKeon said in the statement.

— With assistance by David Wethe

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