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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Podesta Group's client named in Panama Papers
Combined from Free Beacon and Public Integrity reports
A firm with ties to senior members of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign registered to lobby on behalf of a major Russian bank just weeks before a massive leak exposed the bank’s role in a web of secret financial dealings that have enriched members of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.
The “Panama Papers” are being called “the Wikileaks of the mega-rich.” Corporate documents leaked from the law firm Mossack Fonseca show how world leaders have used offshore tax havens to hide their involvement in lucrative companies and business deals around the world.
Among those companies is the Russian Sberbank, whose U.S. investment banking branch recently enlisted the services of the Podesta Group. According to its lobbying registration form, the firm will work on banking, trade, and foreign relations issues.
One of the three lobbyists working on the account is Tony Podesta, a bundler for the Clinton campaign and the brother of campaign chairman John Podesta, who co-founded the firm.
Politico reported last month that Podesta and two of the firm’s other lobbyists would be working to affect “the scope of U.S. sanctions against Russia for its role in the Ukraine conflict and whether relief is possible.”
And Podesta Group took $7,067,891 from 'worst' violators of human rights, records show.
The firm was paid to spruce up the image of Azerbaijan, a country whose government represses political activists, human rights advocates and journalists.
Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison after being convicted on charges including tax evasion and abuse of power — charges widely condemned by human rights groups and journalism organizations. Ismayilova is a member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a project of the Center for Public Integrity. The consortium unleashed the Panama Papers scandal.
Podesta Group characterized Azerbaijan’s 2013 election as a step in “strengthening its democratic society.” The human rights group Freedom House issued a report which said the election was “marred by candidate and voter intimidation … and other serious irregularities.”
Podesta Group has represented Azerbaijan since 2013, receiving $1.9 million for its services since then.
Other nations, such as communist Vietnam, along with Thailand and Egypt, have also hired Podesta Group.

Countries with the worst human rights violation records have spent $168 million on U.S. lobbyists and public relations specialists.

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