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Two former U.S. senators have been caught working for a Russian national bank in an effort to undermine sanctions the Obama administration imposed in response to Russian military intervention in neighboring Ukraine.
There was a time when such activity would be labeled treasonous. Now it's called lobbying.
Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and former Sen. John Breaux, D-La., are listed in federal filings as the primary lobbyists for Gazprombank, the bank controlled by Russia's state-owned energy company Gazprom. The two ex-senators work for the lobbying firm Squire Patton Boggs.
The pair will be lobbying on "banking laws and regulations, including applicable sanctions." In other words, they will be working for the Russian bank to try to weaken sanctions. The U.S. Treasury Department recently added Gazprombank to the list of Russian financial firms barred from financing debt with U.S. institutions.
Leading the arguments will likely be that sanctions are bad for business, particularly business with Europe, which will be hurt economically if Russia cuts gas imports in response to the sanctions. Gazprom is Russia's largest gas producer, supplying about a third of Europe's natural gas. What a tidy circle.
The lobbying deal should prove lucrative for the former senators. Gazprom paid another lobbying firm $3.7 million in the second half of 2013 alone. Everybody, it seems, wins, accept the Ukrainian people, their independence ground under the Russian boot.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, more than 300 former members of Congress have become lobbyists, Democrats and Republicans alike. Congress may remain gridlocked over ideology, but lobbying hums along.