A blacklisted Chinese tech company has paid one of the most connected Democratic lobbyists and megadonors seven figures to lobby President Joe Biden’s White House.
According to a Friday report in the Washington Examiner, Huawei has apparently hired Tony Podesta, one of the top Democrat power brokers in Washington — to the tune of $1 million. His job: to ensure the Biden administration has a friendlier relationship with the tech giant.
Not that this would be particularly difficult. The new president has been clear about the fact he’s trying to cozy up to Beijing, something we’ve covered extensively here at The Western Journal. You can help us bring America the truth by subscribing.
Huawei was formally declared a national security threat in May of 2019, with the Department of Commerce explaining in December of 2020 that it was done because the tech giant and its affiliates were “engaged in activities that are contrary to U.S. national security or foreign policy interests.”
In March, the FCC said Huawei was among “five Chinese companies that produce telecommunications equipment and services that have been found to pose an unacceptable risk to U.S. national security or the security and safety of U.S. persons.”
The list includes five Chinese companies that produce telecommunications equipment and services that have been found to pose an unacceptable risk to U.S. national security or the security and safety of U.S. persons.
— The FCC (@FCC) March 12, 2021
“This list is a big step toward restoring trust in our communications networks,” FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement.
“Americans are relying on our networks more than ever to work, go to school, or access healthcare, and we need to trust that these communications are safe and secure. This list provides meaningful guidance that will ensure that as next-generation networks are built across the country, they do not repeat the mistakes of the past or use equipment or services that will pose a threat to U.S. national security or the security and safety of Americans.”
And Alan Estevez, who Biden has tapped for undersecretary of commerce for industry and security, said during Senate testimony that “I believe that Huawei poses a national security threat to the United States. … I do not see a reason to remove Huawei from the Entity List.”
However, Huawei is trying to turn around its perception in Washington — and it’s counting on Tony Podesta to help.
According to the Examiner, Podesta — brother of John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign — was engaged by the tech firm in July, Senate lobbying disclosure forms show.
In October, a filing showed Huawei paid $500,000 for his services in the third quarter of 2021. Another filing last week showed they paid him $500,000 in the fourth quarter, making Podesta the recipient of $1 million of the firm’s $3.59 million in lobbying spending in the United States last year.
On a Senate lobbying disclosure form, Huawei Technologies USA said he was lobbying on “issues related to telecommunication services and impacted trade issues.”
One filing said he was lobbying the “White House Office,” another the “Executive Office of the President.”
The White House has insisted it remains unswayed by Podesta’s voice.
“President Biden and this administration believe digital infrastructure equipment made by untrustworthy vendors, like Huawei, pose a threat to the security of the U.S., our allies, and our partners,” an administration official said in October.
As the Examiner’s Jerry Dunleavy noted, “The Justice Department and U.S. intelligence agencies believe that Huawei and other Chinese companies are working hand in hand with the ruling Communist Party, potentially giving China’s surveillance state access to hardware and networks around the world.”
However, if they need someone to bend a pliant administration’s ear, Tony Podesta is the man. He’s connected throughout the Democratic universe — and while his fortunes dipped after Hillary Clinton lost her White House run to Donald Trump in 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported in 2021 the colorful lobbyist is on the comeback trail.
He also has an openness to working with clients other liberal lobbyists on K Street won’t — namely, tobacco companies and the National Rifle Association. In addition, he’s done controversial work for foreign governments before. In 2012, he was hired by Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, to lobby for the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, a pro-Ukraine government nonprofit.
His lobbying group registered as a domestic lobbyist for the ECFMU, but in 2017 the Justice Department alerted his lobbying group they had failed to lobby under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. “The ECFMU acted as an intermediary between Ukraine and the West to promote Ukraine’s political and economic interests,” a Justice Department official said in a letter. The Mueller investigation and Manafort’s involvement led to Podesta’s firm — the Podesta Group, once one of Washington’s biggest and most powerful lobbying outfits — being shuttered.
However, he appears to be on the upswing again — and it doesn’t hurt that he’s a mega-donor to the Democratic Party in the past, with he and his now ex-wife contributing over $500,000 to the party during the 2016 electoral cycle.
Nor does it hurt that the Biden administration, for all its tough talk on Huawei, has other ties to the tech giant: “Biden picked attorney Christopher Fonzone to serve as the general counsel for Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines,” Dunleavy noted in his Examiner report.
“After his national security work in the Obama administration, Fonzone took a gig as a partner at the global Sidley Austin law firm, where he did what he called limited work in 2018 for Huawei and China’s Ministry of Commerce. Fonzone has declined to promise not to work for Chinese Communist Party-linked firms in the future.”
And, of course, Biden has been slammed for fawning over Xi Jinping, calling him a “smart, smart guy” during a media briefing last March, according to Fox Business, with the president adding that he’s “not looking for confrontation” with China.
Biden may not be looking for confrontation, but confrontation is looking for him, particularly on issues regarding to tech. Will it lead to Huawei being taken off the blacklist, though? Only time will tell — although it helps to have Tony Podesta on their side.
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