A New York Democrat challenging Rep. Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.) represented the state-run propaganda outlet China Daily in a 2019 lawsuit, filings reveal.
Matthew Putorti, who emerged as Stefanik's main competitor after strong fundraising in his campaign's opening days, was the Chinese propaganda outlet's sole representative during litigation over a 2019 copyright complaint filed by an American photographer, according to legal filings obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. Putorti, as an attorney for Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, filed several legal motions on behalf of China Daily beginning in February 2019.
China Daily is one of Beijing’s primary tools for pushing the Chinese Communist Party's agenda overseas. The State Department designated China Daily a propaganda operative of Beijing in February 2020. The outlet spends millions of dollars annually to publish pro-China articles in U.S. publications, according to several years of Foreign Agent Registration Act filings reviewed by the Free Beacon.
Putorti's work on behalf of China Daily came as the Chinese regime ramped up its spending on global propaganda efforts. The outlet is currently being used by China as it wages a campaign to discredit the United States and deflect from its mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic. In the past year, the New York Times announced it would end its longstanding financial arrangement with China Daily and quietly began deleting content produced by the state-run outlet.
Neither Putorti, Pillsbury LLP, nor China Daily responded to requests for comment.
Putorti's firm does extensive work with the Chinese—the firm has three offices in China and devotes an entire section on its website—a great deal of which is written in Mandarin—to its status as a "first choice" law firm for Chinese executives. The website advertises its attorneys' "cultural sensitivity and experience" working on complex international transactions that benefit Chinese companies.
While Putorti was with the firm, it helped litigate a multimillion-dollar arbitration case on behalf of Trina Solar, a massive Chinese solar company, and Chinese company E-Town Capital's $300 million acquisition of a U.S. semiconductor firm. E-Town Capital, based in Beijing, said in 2020 that it has the official backing of the Chinese Communist Party. The firm's semiconductor subsidiary, the Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation, was blacklisted by the Trump administration for its connections to the Chinese military.
Chinese solar companies like Trina Solar have come under fire for their reliance on slave labor. According to Bloomberg, some 45 percent of solar panel materials worldwide are sourced from the Xinjiang region, where forced labor camps are prevalent. The Biden administration sanctioned a Chinese solar company in June for its connections to forced labor, and former secretary of state John Kerry in May admitted slave labor plagues the larger solar industry.
It is unclear whether Putorti worked on either deal. According to his Pillsbury attorney page, Putorti specializes in international arbitration cases such as the Trina Solar matter.
Ian Easton, a senior director at the Project 2049 Institute, told the Free Beacon that China Daily remains a "mouthpiece" for the Chinese Communist Party and said Americans would be tempted to "boycott" publications that do business with it.
"What is troubling is that some respected American publications are taking money from the CCP to run China Daily inserts that are not clearly labeled as Chinese government propaganda," Easton said. "If American readers knew the source of their news was taking money from a genocidal regime, they might opt to boycott that source."
The Chinese government has used China Daily to spread disinformation about its genocide of Uyghur Muslims. The outlet has argued that policies in the region such as forced sterilization of Uyghur women have benefited the country, and that accusations of genocide come only as a part of a "defamation campaign" from "anti-China" forces in the United States. More than 1 million Uyghur Muslims remain imprisoned in reeducation camps in Xinjiang, where watchdogs have reported forced abortion, rape, and other violent acts against Uyghur women.
Putorti remains featured on the law firm's website. His announced political run came as Republicans elevated Stefanik to a top leadership position within the House of Representatives. Stefanik has represented the upstate New York district since 2015.