An influential Democratic consulting firm that employs former Chinese government officials received as much as $5 million in federal coronavirus relief funding, according to records released on Monday.
The Albright Stonebridge Group, a Washington-based "commercial diplomacy firm" with strong staff links to Joe Biden, connects multinational businesses and nonprofits with political powerbrokers in the United States and abroad. The company is chaired by former secretary of state Madeleine Albright.
Records show that the firm raked in between $2 million and $5 million from the Paycheck Protection Program that was meant to provide relief to small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Trump administration has faced off with the Chinese government over the pandemic and blamed Chinese leadership for trying to cover up the initial spread of the virus after it originated in Wuhan late last year.
Albright Stonebridge has significant consulting operations in China, which is its "largest single country practice," according to its website.
"We work to create allies within the Chinese system through an approach that emphasizes systematic engagement with agencies and non-government stakeholders at the central, provincial, and local levels," said the Albright Stonebridge Group website.
Although Albright Stonebridge is not registered as a foreign lobbying group, it engages in much of the same influence-peddling work as companies that do register. Albright Stonebridge is not required to disclose its clients, however.
The firm employs "former high-level U.S. and Chinese government officials and diplomats," according to its website.
The chairman of Albright Stonebridge’s China branch is Jin Ligang, who previously served as director of China’s ministry of foreign trade. Mu Lan, a senior adviser at Albright Stonebridge, was a former Chinese embassy official, and Jia Mingru, another senior adviser at the firm, was a former assistant minister of culture in China.
The company also has numerous former Biden aides on its staff. Julie Mason, a senior vice president at Albright Stonebridge, previously served as the director of special projects under Biden while he was vice president. She was also communications director for his wife, Jill Biden. Lawrence Silverman, a senior advisor at the firm, was Biden’s special adviser to Europe and Russia. Scott Jacobs, a vice president at Albright Stonebridge, was a former aide in Biden’s vice presidential office.
The firm previously worked on behalf of First Solar, helping the solar power company secure a contract in China, the Washington Free Beacon reported in 2015. Albright Stonebridge did not respond to a request for comment.