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Former Rep. Sweeney lobbies for Kremlin-controlled bank

Former U.S. Rep. John Sweeney has signed a $750,000 contract with a Kremlin-controlled investment bank to lobby against any new sanctions being imposed by the United States.

Sweeney has filed paperwork with the Justice Department to represent the Vnesheconombank, or VEB, according to an article in Mother Jones.

Sweeney reportedly signed a $62,500-per-month deal for 12 months.

VEB was sanctioned in 2014 by President Barack Obama as part of the U.S. response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. New sanctions are being discussed in the House and Senate that would prohibit U.S. firms and citizens from investing in Russian energy projects or participating in projects that involve Russian government debt.

The bank’s previous chairman, Sergey Gorkov, met with President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in December 2016, Mother Jones reported. The purpose of the meeting is unknown, but it was investigated as part of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Sweeney did not respond to Mother Jones’ requests for comments.

Sweeney represented what was then New York’s 20th Congressional District from 1999 through 2006, when he was defeated by now-U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Presidential primary set

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation last week that set New York’s presidential primary as April 28, 2020.

Cuomo has said previously he would like the Legislature to consider moving next year’s congressional and state primary up from June so it would coincide with the presidential one. He believes holding two elections about two months apart would cost taxpayers an additional $20 million, according to a news release.

In this past session, the Legislature voted to move the state primary from September to June so it would coincide with the federal primary.

Cuomo pointed out that at least 15 other states have a combined primary for presidential, federal and state races.

Split drilling votes

Stefanik broke ranks with her party last week to vote in favor of two bills that would prohibit oil and gas production in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and off the Gulf of Mexico, but against a bill prohibiting drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

The Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protect Act prohibits the Bureau of Land Management from administering oil and gas leasing, development, production and transportation in the Coastal Plain of the refuge, according to GovTrack.us.

Stefanik was one of only four Republicans who voted in favor of the bill, which passed 225-193.

She also voted for the Protecting and Securing Florida’s Coastline Act of 2019, which passed 248-180.

Stefanik voted against the Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act, however, which passed 238-189. This bill would prohibit the Department of the Interior from offering any tract for oil or gas leasing on the Atlantic or Pacific coasts.

An email sent to Stefanik’s spokeswoman, asking why she voted no on this bill, was not answered. Stefanik also did not provide an explanation in the write-up of her votes posted to her official Facebook page.

Diesel emissions legislation

Stefanik voted in favor of legislation that would reauthorize $100 million annually from 2019 through 2024 for the diesel emissions reduction program.

The program was founded at $100 million annually from 2012 to 2016, but then was not funded.

The legislation passed 295-114, according to congress.gov.

Energy efficiency

Stefanik voted for the Energy Efficient Government Technology Act, which would require that federal agencies coordinate with the Environmental Protection Agency to implement energy-efficient and energy-saving information technologies at federally owned and operated facilities, according to congress.gov. The legislation passed 384-23.

Minimum border staffing

Stefanik has introduced the Border Officer Utilization for National Defense Act, which would require minimum staffing levels for Customs and Border Protection officers stationed at ports of entry along the northern border.

Stefanik has expressed concern about officers who were temporarily reassigned during the busy tourist season from the northern to the southern border. Crossings at the U.S-Canada border increase from 6 million in January to 11 million in July and August, according to a news release.

There were 162 northern CBP officers reassigned to the southern border as of last week. About 105 were scheduled to return to their posts as of Sunday and the rest by Sept. 22, according to Stefanik.

Stefanik has co-sponsored the bill with Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins, of Buffalo. The two of them co-chair the Northern Border caucus.

“Travel and trade between Canada and the North Country is a critical source of revenue that directly impacts our local economy, as well as the national economy,” Stefanik said in a news release. “Maintaining strong staffing levels at the northern border will ensure our tourism industry and economy are not stifled and that CBP officers are able to effectively carry out their duties.”

Stefanik criticizes donor platform

Stefanik was mentioned in a Politico piece published last Friday, saying that she is concerned about how the data collected in the GOP’s new online fundraising platform would be shared.

The Republicans are rolling out WinRed, which is the equivalent of the Democrats’ popular ActBlue platform.

In the GOP House retreat, however, Stefanik asked whether lawmakers would have to share the data collected with other people and how it is protected, according to aides and lawmakers present who talked to Politico.

The GOP is working to counter ActBlue, which was founded in 2004 and has raised billions of dollars, according to its website.