Ukraine pauses its DC lobbying contract

One of K Street’s top firms, Prime Policy Group, was working for the government of Ukraine until the country’s political crisis escalated in mid-March, new records show.

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Justice Department records posted online this week, as well as the firm’s consulting agreement shared with The Hill, show that lobby shop represented Ukraine through a subcontract with another firm client, JAI Holdings. The contract was in effect from July 23, 2013, to March 15, and was worth $500,000, according to documents.

The firm’s deal with the Ukrainian government, however, “is no longer active — as you know, things changed dramatically in Ukraine,” said Scott Pastrick, president and CEO of Prime Policy Group, in an email to The Hill. 

Nevertheless, Charlie Black, Prime Policy’s chairman, said the firm is still in communication with the new government of Ukraine and is trying to help. Prime Policy hasn’t been paid yet through JAI, a U.S. company that encourages investment in Ukraine and other countries, according to Black.

“It's hard to make demands on them right now. The government workers are not getting paid. So, someday,” Black told The Hill.

The agreement that expired said Prime Policy would “advise the client on potential steps for improving Ukraine’s corporate reputation as a reliable business partner coupled with an effort to enhance its profile as a destination for business investment.”

The firm was to write out a plan of action that included “steps agreed to by Ukraine and pertinent international financial institutions for stabilizing Ukraine’s financial posture.”

DOJ records show that the foreign principal for the contract was Serhiy Arbuzov, Ukraine’s former acting prime minister.

Prime Policy helped coordinate “meetings and written correspondence with senior staff and leadership at IMF, State Department, National Security Counsel, Vice President's Office, and US Embassy of Ukraine” and “advocacy and issue development to win support of [International Monetary Fund] funding and USA support for additional foreign assistance funding,” according to Justice documents.  

The House and Senate both passed legislation last week providing aid to Ukraine, and a final bill could reach President Obama this week. The final legislation omits changes to the International Monetary Fund that were sought by the administration.

Prime Policy’s subcontract with Ukraine ran as the country descended into a political crisis. Viktor Yanukovych, then the Ukrainian president, fled Kiev after a bloody crackdown on pro-Western protesters. Russia then invaded and annexed Crimea, as its troops streamed across the border, drawing international commendation and straining relations with the United States.

Ukraine’s tumult has been a source of solid business for K Street over the years.  Lobbyists for opposition leader and former Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko have worked in Washington since 2011 to pressure for her release from prison.

In addition, Russia has maintained its own influence operation with public relations giant Ketchum earning millions of dollars through its contract with the country.

Prime Policy is one of the more experienced K Street shops, when it comes to foreign clients. The firm has represented politicians and government agencies from Georgia, Hungary, Iraq and Romania, according to Justice records.   

Black, an adviser to several Republican presidential candidates, said that he would be watching on how the U.S. aid package to Ukraine is implemented.

“This is a very historic time over there. That's why we were willing to go work on this,” Black said. “Now they [Ukraine] have a second chance to ally with the West and democracy, but they have Russian troops on their border who have already stolen part of their country. Yeah, it's a big deal.”