Explainers October 31, 2017

What You Need to Know About the Podesta Group and Mercury LLC

In addition to Paul Manafort and his consulting agency, a number of other consulting groups have come under scrutiny for their work on behalf of pro-Russian Ukrainian interests. The October 30 indictment of Rick Gates and Paul Manafort indicates that they “solicited two Washington, D.C. firms (Company A and Company B) to lobby in the United States on behalf of Yanukovych, the Party of Regions, and the Government of Ukraine. For instance, Gates wrote to Company A that it would be representing the Government of Ukraine in [Washington].” These companies “engaged in extensive lobbying” regarding topics such as Ukraine sanctions and Ukraine elections. The indictment states that Manafort and Gates “arranged for the Centre to be the nominal client of Company A and Company B, even though in fact the Centre was under the ultimate director of the Government of Ukraine, Yanukovych, and the Party of Regions.”

It has since been revealed that in the Mueller indictment, “Company A” is Mercury LLC (also referred to as Mercury Public Affairs), headed by former Republican Congressman Vin Weber, and “Company B” is the Podesta Group, then run by Tony Podesta. The aforementioned “centre” refers to the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECFMU). ECMU had reportedly close ties with ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and his Party of Regions. Manafort and Gates arranged this public relations push through the ECFMU, paying the Podesta Group and Mercury LLC to promote Ukrainian interests in the U.S.

The indictment against Manafort and Gates indicated that Gates informed both firms they would be representing the Government of Ukraine. However, Mercury and the Podesta Group have both claimed they believed that the ECFMU was not “controlled or financed by a foreign government or political party.”