The Chinese telecommunications company Huawei is hiring long-time Democrat lobbyist and Clinton-ally Tony Podesta for consulting work, according to people reportedly familiar with the hiring decision, who spoke with Politico and the Wall Street Journal on Friday.
Podesta has numerous ties with high-ranking Democrat politicians. The Wall Street Journal reported he held fundraising events for then-Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during her 2016 campaign. His brother, John Podesta, was chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, a counselor to President Barack Obama and then served as the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. Tony Podesta has also known President Joe Biden for decades and is friendly with a number of his advisers, according to Politico.
The hiring decision comes after Huawei was charged in February 2020 with violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The company is also alleged to have helped Iran’s government build domestic surveillance capabilities to monitor dissidents and tried to secretly do business in North Korea.
The Department of Justice also charged former Huawei CEO Meng Wanzhou in January 2019 with various financial fraud charges, violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Meng was arrested in Canada in December of 2018 and has since fought extradition to the U.S.
One source for Politico said Podesta will work to advance a variety of Huawei’s goals in Washington. Both Podesta and Huawei declined a Politico request for comment on the matter.
Podesta has worked for other Chinese clients in the past. According to lobbying disclosure forms, Podesta’s former lobbying firm, The Podesta Group, lobbied on behalf of the China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF).
CUSEF funds a number of activities in the U.S. In 2018, the University of Texas at Austin rejected a funding offer from CUSEF over concerns about its links to the Chinese Communist Party, according to Inside Higher Ed.
The Wall Street Journal reported Huawei has consistently denied allegations of wrongdoing, and is trying to stabilize business relations with the U.S. under President Biden. The company spent more than $1 million on lobbying in the second quarter of 2021, up from $180,000 in the first quarter, according to lobbying reports obtained by the Wall Street Journal.
Podesta’s hiring is the latest in a series of high-profile U.S. advisers hired by Huawei to help it repair its business reputation in the U.S. Huawei has also hired the LeMunyon Group, Lee Terry Consulting, J.S. Held, and the law office of Stephen Binhak for lobbying purposes. The Chinese company has also signed a $1.4 million contract in November with Ruder Finn, a U.S.- and China-based communications firm.