Former U.S. Sen. David Vitter can’t claim all the credit for the Trump administration’s decision this week to drop sanctions on a high-profile Russian oligarch. But in his new life as a K Street lobbyist, Vitter and his firm, Mercury Public Affairs, played a part.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced Wednesday that he would cut a break for the aluminum empire headed by Oleg Deripaska, following what The New York Times deemed “a sophisticated multimillion-dollar lobbying and legal campaign seeking to delay and ultimately remove the sanctions in exchange for promises from Mr. Deripaska” to give up control in several businesses. Deripaska has long sought international respect, even though he’s suspected in some circles of having ties to organized crime in his country.
Vitter, who left the Senate after two terms in early 2017, was a member of Deripaska's well-heeled team. The Times has reported that he “led an effort to rally foreign ambassadors in Washington against sanctions, working to persuade them that hurting Mr. Deripaska’s business will hurt manufacturing in their own countries by disrupting the supply of aluminum.” Mercury earned more than $100,000 a month, the paper reported.
This wasn’t Vitter’s Plan A, obviously. Until John Bel Edwards’ upset win 2015, he figured he’d be living in Louisiana’s governor’s mansion and, by now, planning his reelection bid.
Still, it's nice work if you can get it. And what it takes to get it, apparently, is a stint in Congress on your resume, and a willingness to cash in.