The campaigns for President Joe Biden and Sen. Mark Kelly (D., Ariz.) hired the private intelligence firm that Harvey Weinstein's legal team tapped to investigate and smear a woman who accused the disgraced Hollywood mogul of sexual assault.
Biden's campaign paid $7,728 to K2 Intelligence in November and December, according to Federal Election Commission records. Kelly's campaign paid K2 more than $314,000 for "security" in four installments from December to March of this year, the records show.
The Kelly campaign told the Washington Free Beacon that it hired K2 to provide security for Kelly and his wife, former representative Gabby Giffords (D., Ariz.), but that it no longer employs the firm and "does not go into detail" regarding the couple's "physical security."
It is not clear from the filings what services K2 provided Biden, but the payments could provide fodder to Republicans given the firm's controversial work for Weinstein. Kelly, a former astronaut, faces reelection next year. Organizations like the New York Times have cut ties with lawyers who worked for Weinstein to smear his victims. The paper terminated its relationship with Weinstein lawyer and top Democratic lawyer David Boies in November 2017 following revelations that he hired another company, Black Cube, to spy on Weinstein accusers.
Weinstein's legal team hired K2 to dig up dirt on Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, an Italian model who said that Weinstein sexually assaulted her in 2015. According to the New Yorker, Weinstein's lawyers also tasked K2 with ensuring that Manhattan district attorney Cy Vance (D.) did not press charges against Weinstein. The New Yorker also reported that K2 gave Vance's office information that Gutierrez had worked in the past as a prostitute. Prosecutors confronted Gutierrez with the information, according to the report. The lawyer who oversaw K2's work for Weinstein, Elkan Abramowitz, contributed $6,600 to Biden’s campaign and a pro-Biden political committee, election filings show.
K2 has worked for other controversial clients. According to the Guardian, spies working for the firm allegedly infiltrated an anti-asbestos group on behalf of a corporate client in the asbestos industry. The K2 operatives posed as documentary filmmakers to gain access to the group.
In addition to its intelligence-gathering operations, K2 provides a host of other services to its clientele.
The group, which has rebranded itself K2 Integrity, says that it is the "preeminent risk, compliance, investigations, and monitoring firm" whose mission is to protect "clients' operations, reputations, and economic security." K2 also provides physical protection, travel intelligence, cybersecurity services, and crisis management, according to its website.
Kelly, who defeated Republican Martha McSally in a special election in November, came under scrutiny during the campaign over his business ties to China. The Free Beacon reported last year that Kelly cashed in on his connections in China after attending a forum in 2003 cohosted by the Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs, an affiliate of the Chinese Communist Party.
Kelly cofounded an aerospace company, World View Enterprises, that received funding from Tencent, the Chinese telecom giant that censors Internet access in China. World View received between $1 million and $2 million in PPP loans last year, even though Kelly criticized the program as a handout to "big banks."
Kelly's office, the White House, and K2 did not respond to requests for comment.