Business & Lobbying

Lobbyist Tony Podesta returns to work for Huawei

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Longtime Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta is joining Huawei as the embattled Chinese telecom company ramps up its efforts under the Biden administration.

Podesta, who previously led one of the most powerful lobbying firms in Washington, is making his return to politics after an extended hiatus. His Podesta Group disbanded in 2017 amid scrutiny from then-special counsel Robert Mueller over the firm’s work with former Trump campaign adviser Paul Manafort. 

The Justice Department ultimately dropped its investigation into Podesta’s firm. With Democrats retaking power and his legal troubles lifted, Podesta is eyeing a return to lobbying, The New York Times reported earlier this month.

Huawei has hired Podesta as a consultant, according to a source familiar with the matter. Politico first reported the news of Podesta’s hiring Friday. 

Huawei is bulking up its lobbying team as the Biden administration reviews the Trump White House’s China-related policies. The firm’s sales outside of China have plummeted following a series of restrictions imposed by the Trump administration and further tightened by President Biden.

The Shenzhen-based company hired several new lobbying firms run by former government officials in recent months. The telecom spent nearly $1.1 million on lobbying in the second quarter of 2021, up from just $170,000 during the same period last year, according to filings. 

Huawei wants Biden to undo a 2019 Trump administration order that bars it from doing business with American companies, including key partners such as Google, Qualcomm and Intel. The telecom is also pushing for the release of its executive Meng Wanzhou, who is being held in Canada on charges of circumventing U.S. sanctions.

The U.S. has accused Huawei of using its technology to spy on U.S. entities on behalf of Beijing, an allegation it denies.

While Huawei was hopeful that Trump’s election loss would bring relief, Biden has imposed further restrictions on the Chinese firm. Last month, Biden signed an executive order prohibiting U.S. investments in Huawei and other firms that allegedly helped the Chinese government repress the Uyghur ethnic minority and pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.

Huawei and Podesta did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Tags China Criticism of Huawei Donald Trump Huawei Huawei ban Joe Biden Lobbying Meng Wanzhou Paul Manafort Podesta Group Robert Mueller Smartphones Telecommunications tony podesta
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