On July 24, Chinese telecom giant Huawei hired the veteran Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta to improve its relationship with the Biden administration. Notably, Podesta has strong connections inside the White House, including with President Biden himself and counsellor Steve Ricchetti, who is believed to be close to Biden.
Podesta stopped lobbying in late 2017 after a federal investigation rendered his practices toxic. As a result, his $42-million-a-year worth of lobbying and public relations firm had collapsed. After exit from the lobbying business, he entered into art dealing and turned his modern art collection into a form of income. In recent weeks, Podesta started to explore options to return to the lucrative lobbying business.
On Friday, Politico reported that China’s telecom giant Huawei has hired him, and the agreement was signed around two weeks ago. New York Times quoted a source familiar with his way of working, saying that last week, he also signed a deal with a Bulgarian energy company that is seeking options to develop business relationships with American Companies.
As per congressional lobbying disclosures, in recent times, Huawei has hired several new lobbyists and lawyers and increased its lobbying spending to more than $1 million in the second quarter of 2021. In the first quarter of 2021, the company had spent only $180,000 on lobbying activities.
Trump administration had deemed Huawei a national security threat
Notably, Huawei has been trying to reduce the tension with the US government to find a way back to the market. During Trump Administration, the company was deemed as a national security threat. The then-US Government had said that the Chinese Government might use the communication technology provided by Huawei for spying.
Though Huawei denied the charges, it was barred from doing business in the US. In the aftermath of the decision announced by the Trump Administration, the company reportedly lost business across the world primarily related to its 5G network equipment. Huawei and its two subsidiaries are facing federal charges of conspiracy to steal trade secrets from American companies.
Who is Tony Podesta?
Tony Podesta is a 77-year-old lobbyist who was a dominant figure in Washington during his peak years. He had raised millions of dollars for Democratic candidates and party committees. His Podesta Group was once one of the highest-earning firms. During President Trump’s tenure, a special counsel’s investigation into the President, his campaign and its connection to Russia.
Podesta Group had taken a client who was involved in Ukrainian politics and was linked to Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, who were the centre of the investigation. These two had worked in Ukraine before joining the Trump campaign. The firm did not register the work under the Justice Department foreign lobbying rules that led to months of investigation into the Group. However, in the end, the investigators decided not to press charges against Podesta.
On July 9, New York Times had reported that Podesta wants to enter back into the lobbying business. He had said, “I don’t want to recreate what I had, but I sort of miss working, and art alone doesn’t sustain me, because I love politics.”
Chinese government explored ways to influence western media
In January, it was reported that all major outlets in western mainstream media attended private dinners and accepted sponsored trips from the Chinese Communist propaganda front CUSEF, The National Pulse has reported. According to the report, journalists from CNN, The Washington Post, The New York Times and MSNBC have participated in these private dinners and sponsored trips.
The events were organised by the China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF), a group funded by the Chinese Communist Party, in order to garner “favourable coverage” and “disseminate positive messages” regarding China.
Other media organisations are reported to include Forbes, the Financial Times, Newsweek, Bloomberg, Reuters, ABC News, the Economist, the Wall Street Journal, AFP, TIME magazine, LA Times, The Hill, BBC, and The Atlantic.
As per the report, the relationship between the mainstream media and the CUSEF was revealed in the Department of Justice’s Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) filings. A 2014 FARA filing revealed that over 20 attendees from top western media organizations attended a private dinner by CUSEF.