Florida lawmaker’s former company used Manafort

Florida lawmaker’s former company used Manafort to pitch Russian-developed technology to U.S. government

Florida House freshman Don Hahnfeldt ran a company in the early 2000s that hired Paul Manafort. | Matt Rourke/AP

TALLAHASSEE — Paul Manafort’s Russian ties have cast a broad shadow over a Trump administration under investigation, but the longtime Republican powerbroker also has a little-known connection to a Florida politician that also runs, in part, through Russia.

Florida House freshman Don Hahnfeldt ran a company in the early 2000s that hired Manafort — President Donald Trump’s former campaign chief who was recently indicted — to try to sell Russian-developed nuclear containment foam to the U.S. Energy Department. At one point, a Manafort-directed company bought more than 2 million shares of company stock.

The story of the now-defunct, Virginia-based EuroTech Ltd. doesn’t just involve Russia — it’s also ingrained with other obscure plot elements worthy of the silver screen, including officials with known ties to the mafia and an untraceable cash flow from Cayman Island investors, according to thousands of pages of regulatory filings.

The documents underscore the reach of Manafort’s business and lobbying network — even into the orbit of a low-profile Florida state lawmaker, who was then in private industry. None of the EuroTech connections link to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

Hahnfeldt, a Villages Republican whose 32-year Navy career included commanding nuclear submarines, said he was hired by EuroTech to help get the company’s most promising product, a Russia-developed nuclear containment foam tested at the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site, to market. Hahnfeldt, who was with the company from 1999 to 2003, said that never happened, but stands behind the product’s effectiveness.

A big part of the company’s strategy was lobbying for federal contracts with former President George W. Bush’s Energy Department. And that’s where Manafort, a longtime political operative and lobbyist, came in.

“He knew a lot of people,” Hahnfeldt told POLITICO. “We used him as a contact with the administration to try to promote the product, and get us access to the administration.”

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