Long-time Democratic power broker Tony Podesta has earned $1 million over the past half-year lobbying the Biden White House at the behest of a blacklisted Chinese tech giant, recent federal disclosures show.
Huawei, which was placed under trade sanctions during the Trump administration, paid Podesta $500,000 in the fourth quarter of 2021 in an attempt to shake off the trade impact of the restrictions, according to the disclosure form filed on the evening of Jan. 20. With the $500,000 Podesta made from the previous three months by lobbying the White House, he has been compensated $1 million over a six-month period for the lobbying effort.
Podesta’s latest lobbying campaign targeted the Executive Office of the President and centered around “telecommunications services and impacted trade issues,” according to the disclosure.
Huawei, once the world’s largest telecom equipment maker, has been facing international scrutiny in recent years. U.S. authorities have flagged the China-based company as a national security threat, saying the company’s close ties with China’s ruling communist regime, as well as Chinese law, could make it a potential espionage tool for Beijing.
A stream of U.S. sanctions since 2019—which have barred Huawei from using U.S. technology and software and have shut out its gears from critical U.S. infrastructure—have slashed the company’s annual revenue by a third. In November 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law a measure that further tightened restrictions on Huawei by restricting it from receiving new equipment licenses from U.S regulators.
Battered by the restrictions, Huawei has ramped up its U.S. influence operation in recent months. Podesta is one of half a dozen lobbyists the firm has engaged since July 2021, including a former congressman and a former congressional aide, according to disclosure filings.
At the time, the company had been pushing for the release of Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei’s founder Ren Zhenfei, who had been detained in Canada on fraud charges for business dealings with Iran that allegedly evaded U.S. sanctions.
Meng was eventually allowed to return to China after signing a deal with the Department of Justice.
Tony Podesta’s brother, John Podesta, served as White House chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and was the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. He was also a counselor to President Barack Obama, overseeing climate and energy policies.
The filings indicate that Huawei spent $3.59 million on lobbying in the United States in 2021, nearly eight times as much as it did in 2020. The $3.59 million was also $500,000 higher than heightened spending in 2019, when the sanctions were first put in place.
White House officials and representatives for Huawei didn’t respond to requests for comment by press time. Tony Podesta declined to comment and directed all questions to Huawei.