Paperwork Is Important, Even for the Podesta Group

Podesta Group

The Podesta Group is often involved in government campaigns and lobbying efforts – as evidenced by their strong ties to both the Obama White House and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. They know the rules of operation, the paperwork that needs to be filed whenever they represent agencies or governments connected to foreign countries, but OOPS, they didn’t keep current on their filings with the Department of Justice for at least two of these clients – at least during the time frame established by law.

Their papers should have been filed (one in 2014 and one in 2015), but they just amended the filing status during November 2016. Better late than never and it could be said that though they know better, the firm was pretty busy what with the HRC campaign, trying to keep the wheels greased, and eventually telling the people at her planned celebration to go home and get some sleep.

But, they didn’t catch this oversight on their own, it was only after the Washington Free Beacon reported that they had violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act that the Podesta Group got around to fixing the problem. The Foreign Agents Registration Act requires lobbyists representing foreign governments or their agencies to disclose any contracts between them and what the terms are for representation (i.e., if they will be establishing ties between the foreign agency/government with national leaders or departments in the U.S. government, press, etc.).

The Podesta Group, founded by brothers John and Tony Podesta, has represented the government of India since 2010. John, though a founder of the agency, has been more hands-off in recent years while being an active part of the Obama administration and the campaign manager for HRC recently. So when the Indian ambassador to the U.S. visited the White House in August 2014, and the agency was not officially registered to represent them, that’s a problem. Especially since John was, at the time, senior counselor to President Obama and his duties in that job included issues associated with India.

The problem escalated when in early 2015, John received an email invitation from Tony to an event with the Indian ambassador – this information all came to light among the various emails that WikiLeaks recently released. All contact, connections, emails, and more should have been made public with the DOJ filings (that didn’t happen when it should have).

In the recently amended disclosure statements, the Podesta Group finally got around to including these details, but since it was released by the press already, their lack of earlier filing seems suspect. Especially since they were filed long after John had left his job at the White House.

Among the correspondence regarding India there was an email where Tony asked John to call him about a “couple of India questions.” Additional emails from Tony asked John who would be best to contact among the White House staff to further the Indian government’s interests in early 2015, shortly after John had left his job at the White House. And there were more emails as well centered around moving Indian ambassador Subrahmanyan Jaishankar’s agenda forward.

Jaishankar later became foreign secretary of India. There are emails showing that Jaishankar, acting in that capacity, assisted John Podesta in reaching a resolution between the Ford Foundation, one of the Center for American Progress’ (founded in 2003 by John Podesta) significant donors, and the Indian government.

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