Len Blavatnik, a Putin-aligned oligarch, was born and raised in the Soviet Union, made his fortune in Russia, and became a U.S. citizen in 1984. He has donated over $6 million to Republicans and $1 million more to Donald Trump’s inaugural committee. Several hundred thousand of his dollars have been given to Democrats, and relatively small amounts have been given to senators Kamala Harris and Ron Wyden, according to Quartz and FEC filings.
Law enforcement and congressional investigators have been especially interested in Russia-linked money in U.S. politics since the Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
During at least some of the time that Blatvatnik was giving to Republicans, one of his companies was partnered with a firm that was reportedly part-owned by a then-official in the Russian government. While his contributions are legal, Blatvatnik has been in business with two U.S. government-sanctioned oligarchs.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are allegedly investigating the big donors to the Trump inauguration committee, and whether they gave money in order to gain access to the administration. While it is unclear if Blatvatnik is being investigated, he did give one of the largest donations to the fund.
Blatvatnik owns stakes in various companies that have been given contracts worth millions of dollars from sensitive U.S. government agencies, including the departments of Defense, Energy, and Homeland Security.
Blatvatnik’s main holding company, Access Industries,released a statement saying Blatvatnik’s donations are “motivated by a desire to further a pro-business, pro-Israel agenda,” and “are a matter of public record and comply with all legal requirements.”
From 2009 to 2014, Blatvatnik gave relatively small donations to both U.S. Republicans and Democrats. His largest expenditure was $273,600 in the 2014 election.
From 2015-2017, he donated at least $6.35 million to GOP institutions, PACs, and candidates. The money was given via personal donations and contributions through his companies, Access Industries and AI Altep Holdings. Most of the money went to Super PACs associated with Mitch McConnell, and presidential candidates Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, John Kasich, and Lindsey Graham.
Blatvatnik did not donate to Trump’s campaign in 2016, but he did donate to the Republican National Committee’s legal fund, which has helped finance Trump’s legal defense for the Russia probe. Blatvatnik also gave $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee, which spent almost double the amount that Obama’s 2009 inaugural celebrations cost.
Two particular donations looked especially bad. $1 million to the McConnell-associated Senate Leadership Fund PAC in October of 2016, and $250,000 to the Rubio-tied Florida First Project in October 2016. Two weeks before these donations were made, U.S. intelligence officers accused Russia of hacking the servers for the Democratic National Committee.
In the same time period, Blatvatnik gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democrats.
In 2018, Blatvatnik’s foundation paid $50,000 to be the “Patron Sponsor” of the conservative Hudson Institute think tank’s annual gala on Dec. 3 to honor Paul Ryan and Nikki Haley.
Hours after the Quartz publication in which Blatvatnik is described as an oligarch, Blatvatnik’s PR representative emailed Quartz, calling the term oligarch “both highly inaccurate and offensive.” The representative argued that it implied having a “great deal of political influence” in Russia. Blatvatnik hasn’t had contact with Putin since 2000, according to the representative, and he “plays no role in Russian politics.”
Instead, Blatvatnik prefers to refer to himself as a “major American industrialist and philanthropist” as he is a funder of schools, museums, and institutes.
Mueller is reportedly interested in Viktor Vekselberg, a long time business partner of Blatvatnik. Vekselberg allegedly met with Michael Cohen, then Trump’s personal lawyer, days before Trump’s inauguration. A few weeks later, a private equity firm headed by Vekselberg’s cousin paid Cohen $1 million in consulting fees.
Vekselberg was questioned by Mueller’s team earlier this year and is now sanctioned by the U.S Treasury. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said sanctions specifically targeted oligarchs who “profit from [Russia’s corrupt system.”