Guess Who’s on Putin’s American Payroll

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin / AP


Russia is paying public affairs experts and lobbyists to push the Russian government’s line in the United States, NBC News reports.

Public relations firm Ketchum, for example, has received more than $4.5 million in the most recent six-month reporting period for the work it has done on behalf of Russia. That work includes preparing and disseminating the website, managing one of Russia’s Twitter accounts, and representing the interests of Gazprom Export, a Russian natural gas exporting subsidy, which is controlled by the Russian government.

Ketchum hires subcontractors to work on its Russian account.

Bob Jones, a partner at Alston & Bird, was revealed to be representing Russian interests in a letter between Alston & Bird and Ketchum. Jones is paid $15,000 per month for the law firm. Alston & Bird received $100,000 from the Russian Federation over a six-month period in 2013.

Ketchum also hired law and lobbying firm Venable to work on the Gazprom Export account. A letter revealed that Venable expected $28,000 per month not including travel expenses for its work on behalf of Gazprom.

NBC News reports:

Ketchum appears to have brought other consultants as well. A document shows the firm paid more than $138,000 to Maslansky Luntz & Partners over a six-month period in 2013.

Ketchum’s work on behalf of the Russian government has stirred controversy in the past. In 2012, ProPublica reported that Ketchum had been responsible for placing op-eds from Russia-friendly experts on American media websites, including that of CNBC. ProPublica said that Ketchum had received almost $23 million in fees from the Russian government from 2006 until 2012, as well as $17 million on the Gazprom account. A Ketchum spokeswoman was quoted in the piece as saying that when the firm corresponds with experts or the media on behalf of Russia, “consistent with Ketchum’s policies and industry standards, we clearly state that we represent the Russian Federation.”

In September, the website BuzzFeed reported that Ketchum was responsible for placing an op-ed by Putin in The New York Times. There was no response in the BuzzFeed article from Ketchum.

The op-ed was entitled “A Plea for Caution from Russia,” and argued against a possible U.S. military strike in Syria. “It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance,” the op-ed said. “We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.” It is not uncommon for public relations firms to pitch op-eds or commentaries to media firms.