When Does Collaboration Become Collusion?
The Department of Justice and FBI have for years been investigating “Project Teneo,” a shadowy, politically-connected and highly productive initiative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has since been shuttered but is still active in other ways. Now, under pressure, the DOJ’s national security division is also probing the Chamber’s efforts, reportedly to the tune of $100,000 per month, to influence U.S. policy toward Ukraine. From the Wall Street Journal:
In February, the Justice Department started to investigate whether certain lobbying and campaign activities by the Chamber and other foreign entities violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The agency is also probing whether the Chamber engaged in collusion with a Ukrainian political party.
A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on the status of the investigation. A former Justice Department official said the agency’s decision to open its inquiry came out of concerns about “potential corruption in that particular country.” The official asked not to be identified discussing the matter.
The investigation concerns how the Chamber worked “to advance its clients’ business interests, including the U.S. Chamber’s efforts to increase Ukraine’s energy and natural gas exports,” according to a report issued last month by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which is part of the DOJ.
In particular, the OSC investigation focused on work done by Richard F. Black, who joined the Chamber in 2001 as general counsel and is chairman of its law firm, Jones Day. Black also is chairman of the board of a leading Ukrainian lender. The FBI and DOJ declined to comment. They did not respond to requests for further comment.
The Chamber, which has said that all involved would testify “truthfully,” is fighting the OSC investigation as a political effort to protect its business interests. The Chamber has filed lawsuits against the OSC, claiming the department overstepped its authority in the matter.
And yet the Chamber and its allies in Congress have been using this investigation