Craig Bouchard, the CEO of Braidy Industries, hoped last summer to build an aluminum mill in Ashland Kentucky. Unfortunately, the major investor that Bouchard needed was Rusal, a large Russian aluminum company owned by billionaire Oleg Deripaska. Rusal was under U.S. sanctions and Deripaska was under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. The U.S. sanctions on Rusal meant it was illegal for U.S. citizens to work with either the company or the person running the company.
Time reports that Bouchard was stuck between a rock and a hard place. He had promised a new mill that would bring prosperity and good jobs to the region, but in order to do so he would have to work with a company tied to the Kremlin. In the end, Bouchard chose to work with Rusal, despite it being potentially illegal.
By April, Bouchard announced that Rusal had bought a 40% stake in the Ashland project for $200 million. While people in Kentucky were relieved, many critics said the deal gave Russia political influence in the U.S. that could be a dangerous challenge to national security.
In the end, Rusal and Bouchard did not have to break any laws, as Rusal freed itself from the sanctions. In order to do so, Rusal lobbied Washington, specifically targeting the Senate majority leader, Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell. Before the midterm elections, major Rusal shareholder Len Blavatnik donated over $1 million to a campaign fund tied to McConnell.
McConnell told reporters that his opinions on Rusal were “completely unrelated to anything that might happen in my home state.”
Blatvatnik said his donations were driven “only by a desire to further a pro-business, pro-Israel agenda,” instead of a pro-Russia agenda.
Rusal said it has only financial motivations. The company said, “Rusal keeps out of politics in all its markets.”
Undoing the deal now would mean a loss of thousands of American jobs.
Read the full story here.