The Associated Press reports that political consultant Paul Manafort, the chairman of Republican candidate Donald Trump's U.S. presidential campaign, may have helped former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's government funnel millions of dollars to U.S. lobbyists in a way that obscured the source of the funding.
In an August 17 report based on interviews with unnamed current and former employees of the Podesta Group lobbying firm, AP said that Manafort and associate Rick Gates moved the money through a nonprofit organization called the European Center for a Modern Ukraine in 2012, when they were paid consultants to Yanukovych's government.
That center was closely tied to Yanukovych's government and his Party of Regions. According to AP, Manafort and Gates funneled at least $2.2 million through the center to U.S. lobbying firms to "advocate positions generally in line with those of Yanukovych's government."
The work included lobbying the U.S. Congress to reject a resolution condemning the jailing of Yanukovych's main political rival, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. That resolution was adopted in November 2013.
Gates told AP that the two men connected the European Center with the lobbying firms and occasionally consulted with those firms. He said the actions were lawful and did not violate the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Podesta employee John Ward Anderson told AP that "I was never given any reason to believe [Gates] was a Party of Regions consultant."
"My assumption was that he was working for the [European Center], as were we," he said.
Manafort has come under scrutiny in recent months for his work for the Yanukovych government and possible ties to Russian oligarchs.
Yanukovych fled to Russia in February 2014 after a popular uprising against him, and he is wanted in Ukraine on suspicion of overseeing massive state corruption.