In Washington, Vladimir Putin's Russian government has all the usual tools of statecraft at its disposal—an enormous embassy compound on Wisconsin Avenue, a stately Beaux-Arts ambassador's residence on 16th Street, and even a Ministry of Foreign Affairs Twitter account: @mfa_russia.
But the Putin government also has less visible tools of influence in Washington: a battery of well-paid American public affairs experts and lobbyists, each helping to push the Russian government's line in the U.S. capital.
According to records maintained by the Justice Department, the Putin government exerts most of its behind-the-scenes influence in the U.S. through the public relations firm Ketchum, which documents show was paid more than $1.5 million in the most recent six-month reporting period for its work on behalf of Russia.
What does Ketchum do for that cash? Mostly distribute press releases, the documents say ... Ketchum is also charged with managing the Twitter account. One day after Russian forces apparently seized control of key sites in Crimea, that Twitter account instead focused on the Olympics, which had ended a week earlier. The account included this tweet: "If you could have attended any #Sochi2014 event, which would you chose?"
Ketchum has also hired high-powered subcontractors to work on the Russian account, including the law firm of Alston & Bird, which is the professional home of former senator and GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole and former Democratic congressman Earl Pomeroy, among others.
...Ukraine is also lobbying, as Bloomberg reports:
Another law and lobbying firm, Venable, has been hired by Ketchum to work on the Gazprom Export account. Venable is the professional home to former Democratic congressman Bart Stupak, among others. According to a 2010 engagement letter on file with the Department of Justice, Venable expected to be paid $28,000 per month plus any travel expenses incurred by the firm.
Democrat Jim Slattery and Republican Vin Weber represented opposing parties for a decade in the U.S. House of Representatives. Today, the two former members of Congress are aligned in advocating for a western-leaning Ukraine.
The two ex-lawmakers were among the lobbyists paid more than $1 million last year to represent partisans in the Ukrainian conflict, Senate records show. It’s a familiar tactical move as a number of countries undergoing political upheaval, including Egypt and Libya, are turning to former elected and government officials to make their case in Washington.