A series of top Republican elected officials have just been exposed for accepting outsized donations from one of the world’s richest men, Leonid “Len” Blavatnik. Blavatnik is a Ukrainian-born businessman whose fortune comes from owning a company purchased by Putin’s Rosneft, the state-run Russian oil company cited in the infamous Russian “pee tape” dossier.
Americans have asked why Congressional Republicans continued to defend President Trump’s secret relationship with Putin and their collision in last year’s elections, and these massive Super PAC donations could help explain why.
The Dallas News just issued a stunning report based on public records recently uncovered by the Democratic Coalition, that the Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority leader McConnell have taken a Putin-connected billionaire Blavatnik’s cash:
Donald Trump and the political action committees for Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich and John McCain accepted $7.35 million in contributions from a Ukrainian-born oligarch who is the business partner of two of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s favorite oligarchs and a Russian government bank.
During the 2015-2016 election season, Ukrainian-born billionaire Leonid “Len” Blavatnik contributed $6.35 million to leading Republican candidates and incumbent senators. Mitch McConnell was the top recipient of Blavatnik’s donations, collecting $2.5 million for his GOP Senate Leadership Fund under the names of two of Blavatnik’s holding companies, Access Industries and AI Altep Holdings, according to Federal Election Commission documents and OpenSecrets.org.
Len Blavatnik now owns Warner Group Music and has become a pillar of the Republican Party’s donor class, but many of his billions come from windfall profits on a Russian oil deal personally orchestrated by Vladimir Putin.
These days, Blavatnik is so close to the Trump administration that he recently announced a partnership deal with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to finance Hollywood films!
Republicans have reaped a major benefit from Russian oil money for twenty years, since the dark days of Jack Abramoff, whose lobbying scandal led to multiple felony corruption convictions and the GOP losing the House of Representatives.
In the last election, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-NC) received over $8 million dollars from McConnell’s Super PAC in last year’s election. He later became part of Trump’s transition team and is now heading the Senate’s investigation into Russian election interference.
Who can forget that Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan’s Super PAC also benefitted from targeted opposition research hacked by Russians from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee?
Republican mega donor Len Blavatnik moved to America for a time in the mid-1970s to obtain American citizenship and education before expatriating to become a Russian oil billionaire.
Blavatnik’s appropriately named Access Industries Inc. scored a $7 billion dollar windfall a few years ago in partnership with Alfa Bank, the Kremlin-linked bank caught communicating with Trump’s campaign using a secretive email server, and Putin’s best friend, an ex-KGB agent who happens to be Russia’s richest man.
His Access Industries partnered to win a privatization auction of a state-run oil company in 2003 with Alfa Bank’s Mikhail Fridman and Victor Vekselberg, who is coincidentally the largest shareholder in Bank of Cyprus which Trump Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross built into a rogue’s gallery.
The three men formed AAR partners, got an insider’s deal based on their access to Putin to buy an oil company called TNK and partner with BP.
Privatization deals in Russia like these are considered a form of public corruption since they deliver great state-owned wealth to a connected few, and sometimes only take small loans back in exchange for gushers of money from oil companies.
After the Russian oil money flowed, rich dividends piled up for an entire decade until Putin ordered Blavatnik and AAR to sell their shares to Rosneft when oil was at a high price, $92 dollars a barrel 2013.
Luckily for Blavatnik and company, they sold out to Putin at the very top of the market, but the results for both Rosneft and Russia since then have been disastrous:
Sechin and Putin’s mega-energy merger may have seemed like a “good” strategic deal for Russia, but for Fridman, Vekselberg, Blavatnik and Khan, whose combined net worth now hovers around $55 billion, cashing out of Russia’s most oil-dependent company in the spring of 2013, with West Texas Crude selling at $92 per barrel and Western banks pumping loans into Russia, may go down as the most brilliantly timed profit-taking of the decade. It also may have set off a chain of events in global financial markets that has contributed to the collapse of Russia’s currency, which plummeted 40% against the dollar in 2014. Putin’s state has been thrown into recession.
Putin was ecstatic. “This is a good big deal, which is important not only for Russia’s energy sector but for the entire Russian economy,” he said as the deal was being announced. Rosneft’s $55 billion TNK-BP purchase transformed it into the world’s biggest publicly traded oil company and cemented Sechin’s position as a global energy czar, with Putin presumably pulling the strings.
It’s important to understand that many Russian oil billionaires aren’t allowed to cash out so gracefully, and instead put on trial for bogus charges, stripped of their wealth and imprisoned like Yukos Oil’s former owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Only pro-Putin oligarchs are allowed to cash out their Russian oil fortunes and legally take the money to a foreign country.
Following the money to Republican donors is showing exactly how Vladimir Putin has used Russian oil money to edge his way past Jesus in the GOP’s hierarchy of personalities.
The ties between the GOP and Putin have grown so extremely close today, that one Congressional Republican flew to Moscow last year just to take orders from Putin’s cronies, and nobody in his caucus is doing a thing about it.
If you have any doubt whatsoever that Len Blavatnik’s money comes from Russian oil, here is a copy of the wire transfer from the Putin-controlled Rosneft Oil Company.
Original reporting by Ruth May @ the Dallas News