Swamp Drainage: Podesta Group Set To Shut Down Amid Mueller Investigation
The Podesta Group, one of Washington, D.C.’s largest lobbying firms, is set to shut down amid Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Employees of the Podesta Group may cease being paid by the end of November.
The Hill reports:
Kimberley Fritts, the Podesta Group’s chief executive, told employees on Thursday that the firm would not exist at the end of the year and that they would likely not be paid through the end of November, sources told CNN.
Fritts announced her resignation from the top Washington lobbying group after Podesta left the company amid ties to indictments filed in the Russia investigation.
The Podesta Group was hired along with another firm to do work for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner Richard Gates, who are facing charges of covering up years of work for a pro-Russia Ukrainian political party and laundering their profits to avoid U.S. detection.
Just days after Podesta Group founder Tony Podesta resigned, its CEO Kimberley Fritts is leaving to launch her own firm.
Tony Podesta, the firm’s founder, tapped Fritts as his successor when he announced he’d step down as chairman last week, hours after an indictment was unsealed, charging Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, with violating foreign lobbying law. The indictment accused Manafort of hiring the Podesta Group to lobby for an ostensibly independent nonprofit that “was under the ultimate direction” of the Ukrainian president, his party and the Ukrainian government.
Fritts had been expected to relaunch the Podesta Group under a new name in the days after Podesta stepped down. But after more than a week of working to hammer out the details of what the new firm would look like, Fritts announced at a staff meeting late this afternoon, that she would resign and start a new firm, exacerbating questions about the future of the Podesta Group and its dozens of employees.
“Tony Podesta’s name had become a scarlet letter,” one Podesta Group employee told POLITICO, adding “I expect a lot of the top talent will go with her.”
As we previously reported, Tony Podesta, the founder of D.C. lobbying firm the Podesta Group stepped down from the company amid Robert Mueller’s probe. Podesta made the announcement at a company-wide meeting two weeks ago.
Podesta is handing over full operational and financial control to longtime firm CEO Kimberley Fritts, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the meeting. Fritts and a senior group of the Podesta team will be launching a new firm in the next one or two days. Sources said the transition has been in the works for the past several months.
“[Tony] was very magnanimous and said, “This is an amazing group of people,” a source said of Podesta’s remarks. Podesta also told staff he “doesn’t intend to go quietly, or learn how to play golf.” He said he “needs to fight this as an individual, but doesn’t want the firm to fight it.”
The Podesta Group was subpoenaed in late August along with four other public relations firms who worked with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort during a 2012-2014 lobbying effort for a pro-Ukraine think tank – the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECMU) – tied to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.
Two of the subpoenaed firms include Paul Manafort’s Mercury, LLC and the Podesta Group, founded by John and Tony Podesta and operated by the latter.
Manafort’s firm earned $17 million between 2012 – 2014 consulting for Yanukovych’s centrist, pro-Russia ‘Party of Regions.’ During the same period, Manafort oversaw a lobbying campaign for the pro-Russia “Centre for a Modern Ukraine,” a Brussels based think tank linked to Yanukovych which was pushing for Ukraine’s entry into the European Union.
Fritts’ departures comes amid reports that Tony Podesta failed to register as a foreign agent while lobbying for the Clinton-Uranium One deal. “Podesta collected lobbying fees of $180,000 from Uranium One, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, that discloses lobbying documents filed with Congress,” reports Richard Pollock of the Daily Caller.