Podesta Group CEO Abruptly Quits Just Days After Tony Podesta Resigns
As the line from the Shakespeare play Hamlet goes, “something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” Just days after Podesta Group founder Tony Podesta resigned, its CEO Kimberley Fritts is leaving to launch her own firm.
Tony Podesta, the firm’s founder, tapped Fritts as his successor when he announced he’d step down as chairman last week, hours after an indictment was unsealed, charging Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, with violating foreign lobbying law. The indictment accused Manafort of hiring the Podesta Group to lobby for an ostensibly independent nonprofit that “was under the ultimate direction” of the Ukrainian president, his party and the Ukrainian government.
Fritts had been expected to relaunch the Podesta Group under a new name in the days after Podesta stepped down. But after more than a week of working to hammer out the details of what the new firm would look like, Fritts announced at a staff meeting late this afternoon, that she would resign and start a new firm, exacerbating questions about the future of the Podesta Group and its dozens of employees.
“Tony Podesta’s name had become a scarlet letter,” one Podesta Group employee told POLITICO, adding “I expect a lot of the top talent will go with her.”
As The Gateway Pundit previously reported, Tony Podesta, the founder of D.C. lobbying firm the Podesta Group stepped down from the company amid Robert Mueller’s probe. Podesta made the announcement at a company-wide meeting two weeks ago.
Podesta is handing over full operational and financial control to longtime firm CEO Kimberley Fritts, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the meeting. Fritts and a senior group of the Podesta team will be launching a new firm in the next one or two days. Sources said the transition has been in the works for the past several months.
“[Tony] was very magnanimous and said, “This is an amazing group of people,” a source said of Podesta’s remarks. Podesta also told staff he “doesn’t intend to go quietly, or learn how to play golf.” He said he “needs to fight this as an individual, but doesn’t want the firm to fight it.”
The Podesta Group was subpoenaed in late August along with four other public relations firms who worked with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort during a 2012-2014 lobbying effort for a pro-Ukraine think tank – the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECMU) – tied to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.
Two of the subpoenaed firms include Paul Manafort’s Mercury, LLC and the Podesta Group, founded by John and Tony Podesta and operated by the latter.
Manafort’s firm earned $17 million between 2012 – 2014 consulting for Yanukovych’s centrist, pro-Russia ‘Party of Regions.’ During the same period, Manafort oversaw a lobbying campaign for the pro-Russia “Centre for a Modern Ukraine,” a Brussels based think tank linked to Yanukovych which was pushing for Ukraine’s entry into the European Union.
Fritts’ departures comes amid reports that Tony Podesta failed to register as a foreign agent while lobbying for the Clinton-Uranium One deal. “Podesta collected lobbying fees of $180,000 from Uranium One, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, that discloses lobbying documents filed with Congress,” reports Richard Pollock of the Daily Caller.
The Daily Caller reports:
The Podesta Group lobbied on behalf of Uranium One for part of 2012 and in 2014 and 2015, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The Podesta Group was not listed as a lobbyist for Uranium One during its sale to ROSATOM in 2010.
The Podesta Group did not file under FARA during any of the years when it lobbied both Congress and the executive branch, according to the Justice Department website.
Reporting requirements under FARA demand far more rigorous public disclosure requirements — including contract information — than reports filed under congressional lobbying disclosure rules.
“The Podesta Group takes legal compliance seriously, and it complied with the law here,” a spokesperson from the Podesta Group told the Daily Caller.