Russian bank hires two former U.S. senators

U.S. sanctions against Russia are becoming a boon for Washington's lobbyists

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Gazprombank GPB (OJSC), a Russian bank targeted with sanctions by President Obama over the Ukraine crisis, has hired two former U.S. senators to lobby against those sanctions, according to a new disclosure filed with the Senate.

Gazprombank is controlled by Russia’s state-owned energy company Gazprom, the country’s largest gas producer; it supplies about a third of Europe’s natural gas.

In a filing submitted Friday and effective that day, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and former Senator John Breaux, D-La., are listed as the main lobbyists under the Gazprombank account for the firm Squire Patton Boggs, lobbying on “banking laws and regulations including applicable sanctions.”

Gazprombank GPB (OJSC) is a subsidiary of Gazprombank, Russia’s third largest bank. On July 16th, the U.S. Treasury Department added it to a list of Russian firms barred from debt financing with U.S. institutions.

Lott and Breaux left public service almost a decade ago and are among more than 300 members of Congress who’ve become lobbyists, and begun petitioning former colleagues on behalf of clients, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In 2008, they started a lobbying firm with their sons, Breaux Lott Leadership Group, which was acquired by D.C.-lobbying powerhouse Patton Boggs in 2010. Patton Boggs merged with Squire Sanders to form Squire Patton Boggs in June.

Gazprom has been in the news a lot. In July, The Permanent Court of Arbitration, an intergovernmental organization located in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled that the Russian government should reimburse $50 billion to certain shareholders of former Russian oil company Yukos. The tribunal said the government, in a series of actions starting in 2003 “accompanied by serious due process violations,” had dismantled and seized the assets of Yukos and transferred them to Gazprom and state-run oil company Rosneft.

Last month, Russian gas firm OAO Novatek retained Washington, D.C., public relations firm Qorvis to lobby the administration and Congress after one of its largest shareholders, an associate of Russian president Vladimir Putin, was similarly targeted for sanctions by the United States.