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Vin Weber, senior Romney adviser, under fire for controversial Ukraine lobbying

Weber is a registered lobbyist for a group with close ties to the controversial Ukrainian regime.
Weber is a registered lobbyist for a group with close ties to the controversial Ukrainian regime.

Former Minnesota Congressman Vin Weber has had quite the career as a "revolving-door" D.C. lobbyist. But as one of Mitt Romney senior foreign-policy advisers, he's now under scrutiny for being a registered lobbyist for the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine.

The ECFMU was founded in January by a senior member of parliament for Ukraine's ruling Party of Regions, which is led by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. A 2011 special report from a D.C.-based human rights group concluded that Yanukovych "has become less democratic and, if current trends are left unchecked, may head down a path toward autocracy and kleptocracy." A followup published just a week ago found that "a year later, most of those key concerns remain, and in some cases the problems have grown considerably worse, especially in the area of selective prosecution of opposition figures and corruption."

Weber's ties to the ECFMU stand in tension with his history as an advocate for greater democracy in Ukraine--in 2010, the National Endowment for Democracy, an organization that makes grants to democratic non-governmental organizations throughout Ukraine, awarded him the endowment's Democracy Service Medal. He's also worked as chairman of the endowment.

Romney's hawkish stance toward Russia stands in tension with Weber's lobbying work.
Romney's hawkish stance toward Russia stands in tension with Weber's lobbying work.

But more problematic for Romney is the fact that the presumptive GOP presidential nominee has been talking tough about Russia, promising on his website to "be forthright in confronting the Russian government over its authoritarian practices," and contrasting his hawkish view with President Obama's "reset" of U.S.-Russia relations. For their part, Yanukovych and the Party of Regions have sought closer ties with Russia since coming to power.

As The Daily Beast notes, "what's notable about Weber's lobbying is that it has the potential to benefit a government that critics say is backsliding from a democratic revolution."

This isn't the first time that Weber, who was rated as the fifth most powerful lobbyist in D.C. by Washington Magazine in 2007, has come under fire for his paid advocacy work. While working as a commenter for NPR in the mid-1990s, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting dinged Weber for frequently offering his opinions about health care issues, but never revealing he was a paid lobbyist for several health insurance giants.

At least then he wasn't talking out both sides of his mouth.


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