Rep. Eric Swalwell (D., Calif.), who has accused Republicans of enabling Russia, took maximum campaign donations from a top lobbyist for Nord Stream 2 AG, the company behind an oil transportation project dubbed "Putin’s pipeline."
Swalwell, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, received $2,900 last year from Vincent Roberti Sr., the chairman of lobbying powerhouse Roberti Global. Roberti gave $5,400 to Swalwell’s campaign in 2018. Roberti Global received $2.4 million in 2021 from Nord Stream 2 AG, a Switzerland-based subsidiary of Russian oil giant Gazprom. Critics of the 761-mile pipeline have long said it would allow Vladimir Putin to tighten his grip on Eastern Europe.
As Swalwell accepted campaign cash from Roberti, he set his sights on one of Nord Stream 2’s staunchest critics: Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas). Swalwell in December called Cruz a "pro-Putin enabler" after Cruz blasted President Joe Biden for relaxing sanctions on the oil pipeline. Swalwell mocked Cruz earlier this week after the Republican said in an interview that Biden’s reversal of sanctions on Nord Stream 2 gave Putin a "green light" to invade Ukraine.
Though Biden has acknowledged that Putin planned to use Nord Stream 2 to wield influence in Europe, he waived congressionally approved sanctions on the pipeline last May. He defended the decision, saying sanctions would hurt relations with Germany. Biden reversed the waiver on Wednesday in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The German government said this week it is shutting down the pipeline because of the invasion.
Roberti is one of the Democratic Party’s biggest supporters. He donated last year to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.). Schumer for months stonewalled a vote on Cruz’s bill to reimpose sanctions on Nord Stream 2.
Roberti, known as one of the Beltway’s savviest insiders, also has close ties to Biden. Roberti advised Biden’s 2008 presidential campaign. Biden thanked Roberti at a fundraiser that year for flying him from Washington, D.C., to Hartford, Conn., according to reports at the time.
There is no indication that Swalwell has gone after Cruz because of Roberti, but Swalwell’s remarks are not the first time he has opened himself up to allegations of hypocrisy.
After Swalwell spent most of the Trump presidency accusing Republicans of being in bed with Russia, it emerged that the lawmaker had a close relationship with a suspected Chinese intelligence officer. Fang Fang, the alleged spy, donated to Swalwell’s congressional campaign and planted an intern in Swalwell’s office. The FBI reportedly informed Swalwell about Fang’s activities in 2015, soon after he joined the House Intelligence Committee. Swalwell has repeatedly declined to provide details about his relationship with Fang.
Swalwell’s office did not respond to a request for comment.