When Robert Mueller was named a special prosecutor to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, this was not the sort of result all the cheerleaders were looking for.
In 2013, Paul Manafort, he who has been charged in the investigation, was working for the Ukrainians through a series of front companies and lobbying firms. His effort targeted and made contributions to every member of the Senate Intelligence Committee including Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho who was up for re-election in 2014.
The indictment against Paul Manafort names both the lobbying groups and the senators who received campaign contributions (Risch, Dana Rohrabacher and Ed Royce, specifically. All Republicans.)
The indictment includes references to two lobbying firms Manafort hired for the Ukraine work. News reports later identified those firms as Mercury Public Affairs LLC and Podesta Group.
Three Mercury partners—John (Vin) Weber, Michael McSherry and Edward Kutler—met with Risch on Nov. 13, 2013, to lobby on behalf the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECFMU), according to disclosure documents eventually filed by Mercury. ECFMU presented itself as an independent think tank, but was really a Yanukovych project, Mueller claims.
A few weeks later, on Dec. 4, 2013, Risch received contributions of $1,000 each from Weber, McSherry and Kutler, FEC records show. Risch was up for election in 2014.
ECFMU then paid Mercury more than $218,000 in fees and “reimbursement” a few months later.
While the contributions were accepted by the campaign for Risch’s re-election, there is no evidence at this time that Risch knew about it.
Asked further about the complaint and Mueller’s new filings, Minton said Risch “had never heard of a Ukrainian outreach program. As part of his job on the Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees over the past 10 years, he has had thousands of meetings with representatives of most if not all of the 200+ countries in the world. He has no specific recollection of any meetings with the Ukrainians or representatives of any Ukrainian interest groups, but says it is possible that he has met with Ukrainians or Ukrainian representatives just as he has met with virtually every country or country’s representatives.”
Add into the mix that Risch is slated to replace Sen Bob Corker as Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the whole scenario begins to get fishy. It’s very possible that Risch is just another swamp creature who got caught. We’ll see.