Ukraine Factions Vie for Lobbying Edge

Exclusive: Though many Ukrainians live in poverty, government officials and oligarchs lavish millions on Washington insiders to buy influence, another example of how foreign lobbying can fuel a crisis, Jonathan Marshall reports.

By Jonathan Marshall (This is the sixth and final installment of a series on foreign lobbying.)

Donald Trump doesn’t just have a Russia problem, in the eyes of his critics. He also has a big — and related — Ukraine problem. His 2016 campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was forced to resign last August amid a flurry of media exposés about Manafort’s lobbying for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia following violent protests against his government in February 2014.

“Any presidential candidate should properly vet the backgrounds of and moral decisions of the people he picks to advise him,” said Atlantic Council deputy director Alina Polyakova last year, declaring that Manafort’s work in Ukraine “absolutely should cast a shadow on Trump’s campaign.”

Either she or the reporter forgot to mention that two of her influential think tank’s top 10 contributors are the U.S. State Department, which applauded the ouster of Yanukovych, and the Ukrainian World Congress, a diaspora organization that attacked him as well. The UWC now works to promote Ukraine’s integration into the European Union, a key issue that helped cause Yanukovych’s downfall and led to the ongoing crisis with Russia over Eastern Ukraine and Crimea.

That small detail exemplifies the complexity of Ukrainian influence campaigns over the last few years. Although Trump’s campaign manager attracted enormous public attention for his work in Ukraine, other prominent lobbyists in the Yanukovych camp were connected to high-level Obama administration officials. Still others took money from Yanukovych’s political foes, or from independent billionaire oligarchs with their own agendas.

The only common denominators are money, influence and lack of transparency.

Paul Manafort exemplifies those characteristics to the nth degree. A Republican adviser to the campaigns of Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole, he…

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