UN ambassador Nikki Haley and former House Speaker Paul Ryan were honored this week at an event partially funded by a Russian oligarch whose political contributions have reportedly been investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller and whose business associates include sanctioned Russian businessmen, according to Quartz.
Len Blavatnik’s foundation is named as the ”patron sponsor” of the conservative Hudson Institute think tank’s award gala in New York. Previous award recipients include Ronald Reagan, Henry Kissinger, and vice president Mike Pence.
Blavatnik, a US citizen raised in the Soviet Union who is in business with two US-sanctioned Russian oligarchs, has dramatically increased his political donations in recent years. Since 2015, he has given $7.6 million to Republicans, $1 million to president Donald Trump’s inauguration committee, and half a million to Democrats, Federal Election Committee filings show. In the years before then, he made relatively small, bipartisan donations.
He gave $50,000 to the Hudson Institute event. The only higher spending sponsors are three Hudson Institute trustees, and billionaire hedge funder Paul Singer.
Ryan’s spokesperson said he would not attend the gala, as his plans changed to host the arrival ceremony for former President George H.W. Bush’s memorial in Washington, DC after Bush passed away last week.
Haley’s spokesperson did not respond to Quartz’s request for comment on Monday.
Blavatnik was born and raised in the Soviet Union, but left to America aged 21 in 1978, where he became a US citizen. In the 1990s, he returned to Russia as a businessman. He swiftly became one of the richest of a generation of post-Soviet oligarchs, making a fortune in the country’s newly privatized oil sector and the notoriously bloody “aluminum wars.”
Blavatnik and his longtime business partner, US-sanctioned oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, own a large stake in aluminum giant Rusal, which is owned by fellow oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Deripaska and Rusal are also sanctioned by the US Treasury, which says the oligarch “does not separate himself from the Russian state.” Both Deripaska and Vekselberg have featured in the Mueller probe, with Vekselberg reportedly questioned by Mueller’s team earlier this year.