To the extent Russia has any friends other than Rohrabacher in Washington today, they are for the most part officially paid for—a slew of slick and ineffective PR people and lobbyists who have eagerly taken millions of dollars from Russia in recent years to help burnish its image. Ketchum, the giant PR agency on the Russia account, has earned more than $60 million from the Kremlin over the past nine years, according to legally required disclosures. And for what?
A culture clash was already apparent. Russian officials couldn’t understand why publicists weren’t simply able to buy journalists. Or manipulate them. Nor did they listen to Ketchum’s pleas to open up to the Western media, let alone Congress. “It’s not something that comes naturally to them,” says Ed Verona, the former head of the U.S.-Russia Business Council, a trade group for American and Russian companies that lobbies Congress extensively. “Not all Russian lawmakers are corrupt and there is legitimate lobbying, but unfortunately to a great extent it still consists of passing an envelope to somebody.”
For a hearing on the Ukraine crisis before his subcommittee on July 29, 2014, Rohrabacher picked as a witness Anthony Salvia, the executive director of the American Institute in Ukraine, a little-known nonprofit. Salvia served in the Reagan administration as a midlevel official in the State Department. Before the committee, he gave a presentation that papered over Russian aggression in Ukraine. He also neglected to mention that he is a director of a public affairs firm called the Global Strategic Communications Group. In 2005, the firm registered to lobby for the leadership of Rodina, a right-wing Russian political party. The Rodina chairman at the time was Dmitry Rogozin, the combative deputy prime minister who feasted with Rohrabacher in Moscow.That Salvia wasn’t the ideal witness to comment on Ukraine seemed to escape Rohrabacher, who grew flustered during the hearing as the ranking member on his subcommittee, Representative William Keating (D-Mass.), a former district attorney, rattled off Salvia’s numerous apparent conflicts of interest.