ESPIONAGE

WKYC and Cuyahoga, Ohio mayors use same law firm as Putin’s Russian Federation

U.S. media outlet's "investigative" reporters never disclosed its law firm's pro-Kremlin legal deals

CLEVELAND, OH – Ex-WKYC reporter Tom Meyer spent 42 years “investigating” corruption at all levels of government in greater Cleveland.  In that time Meyer never “investigated” his last employer’s law firm to to connect them to the representation of Vladmir Putin and the Russian Federation’s business interests from its Moscow office during all the Trump administration’s “Russia collusion drama” here during the Republican National Committee’s 2016 convention.  

This writer received a letter from a Squire, Patton & Boggs attorney that identified his client as WKYC.

A copy of a letter this writer obtained from a Squire Patton Boggs attorney on behalf of WKYC revealed the U.S. media outlet’s shocking ties to the global law firm whose offices were raided by the FBI in 2018 when they employed President Donald Trump’s personal attorney … Michael Cohen.  With offices in Moscow, Saudi Arabia and Israel, the global law firm’s ties to foreign and brutal governments was never the subject of a WKYC “Tom Meyer investigation.”  Neither was “Squire’s” representation of the Cuyahoga County Mayors & City Managers Association for years while its global managing partner handled local deals like Dan Gilbert’s $88 million tax dollar ripoff to renovate The Q led lawyers while helping Vladmir Putin structure oil and banking deals for Rosneft and Gazprom from Moscow.

Special counsel Robert Mueller led the FBI to raid the Manhattan offices of Squire, Patton Boggs overseen by its powerful global managing partner Frederick Nance after the law firm cut a deal with Trumps “personal attorney.” The raid gave Trump his most prized deceiver, but he didnt understand how Robert Mueller was helping him.  This photo features Nance as a WKYC “guest” who has never been the “subject” of a WKYC investigative news story.

The idea of a global law firm operating out of Cleveland that represents the Russian Federation with close ties to an NBC affiliate as well as local Ohio mayors should have raised the eyebrows of a journalist with 62 local Emmy Awards.  But his employer’s affairs were not Meyer’s interest during his 46 year news career.  His “editorial bottom feeding” Emmy’s were built off Meyer sneaking up on sleeping city workers and reviewing court proceedings of prominent citizens and disclosing details in what he called “exclusive investigations.”

This writer received a letter from a Squire, Patton & Boggs attorney that identified his client as WKYC.

Meyer never shared that WKYC is owned by Tegna Broadcasting headquartered out of Tysons, Virginia.  David Lougee is Tegna’s president and chief executive officer.  Howard Elias who leads Dell computers as its CEO is Tegna’s board chairman. 

In a May 2019 “privacy statement” Dell Technologies, Inc identified its global group of companies.  Like WKYC’s law firm, Dell has a 250 employee presence in Moscow through the EMC St. Petersburg Development Centre. 

As an NBC affiliate WKYC falls under the Comcast umbrella of companies controlled by Brian Roberts.  Comcast’s Xfinity brand is sold in Russia.  One of the news products Xfinity offers its customers is “Russia Today.”  On its website RT identifies itself as being publicly financed from the budget of the Russian Federation.

This image from Squire Patton Boggs website identifies the location of its Moscow office.

With such close ties to foreign and Soviet influences what’s compelling about WKYC is the news its reporters don’t cover about the global and high-level clients connected to its law firm.  Local mayors meeting monthly with Squire attorneys would also have no idea if the positions the law firm to lobby for on their behalf is motivated by their own “local” needs of those of foreign influences.  [NOTE:  This writer is the former mayor of the City of East Cleveland 2006-2009 and was a member of the Cuyahoga County Mayors & City Managers  Association].

This image from Tegna’s webite shows Dell CEO Howard Elias leading the media company’s board of directors as chairman.

Congress enacted the Foreign Agents Registration Act in 1938 and requires the agents of foreign principals to register with the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ).  With offices in Moscow and known representation of the Russian Federation the “political” nature of its relationship with Cuyahoga county’s mayors and city managers could be troublesome for Squire Patton Boggs.  A search of the USDOJ’s website reveals that neither Squire Sanders Dempsey or Squire Patton Boggs has registered as an agent of the Russian Federation.

In an April 4, 2019 “advisory opinion” the USDOJ affirmed that FARA registration is required if a party is an “agent of a foreign principal” if it acts “in any . . . capacity at the order, request, or under the direction or control, of a foreign principal or of a person any of whose activities are directly or indirectly supervised, directed, controlled, financed, or subsidized in whole or in major part by a foreign principal and who directly or through any other person,” and within the United States: (i) engages in political activities for or in the interests of such foreign principal; (ii) acts as public relations counsel, publicity agent, information-service employee or political consultant for or in the interests of such foreign principal; (iii) solicits, collects, disburses, or dispenses contributions, loans, money, or other things of value for or in the interest of such foreign principal; or (iv) represents the interests of such foreign principal before any agency or official of the Government of the United States. See 22 U.S.C. § 611(c)(1).”

There’s no exemption pursuant to 28 C.F.R. § 5.307 if the foreign agent engaged in political activities like those connected to Squire Patton Boggs’ lobbying efforts for the county’s mayors.  Lobbying Disclosure Act registrations don’t exempt the firm once it crosses the “political” line. 

It would be a curious FARA test to learn if the USDOJ would consider an investigation of a local NBC affiliate represented by a law firm that represents county mayors with strong economic and “political” ties to the Russian Federation; and if information Nance or the lawyers he oversees supplies the station during their “interviews” might benefit one or more of its foreign government clients.

Eric Jonathan Brewer
Cleveland's most influential journalist and East Cleveland's most successful mayor is an East Saint Louis, Illinois native whose father led the city's petition drive in 1969 to elect the first black mayor in 1971. Eric is an old-school investigative reporter whose 40-year body of editorial work has been demonstrably effective. No local journalist is feared or respected more. Trained in newspaper publishing by the legendary Call & Post Publisher William Otis Walker in 1978 when it was the nation's 5th largest Black-owned publication, Eric has published and edited 13 local, regional and statewide publications across Ohio. Adding to his publishing and reporting resume is Eric's career in government. Eric served as the city's highest paid part-time Special Assistant to ex-Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White. He served as Chief of Staff to ex-East Cleveland Mayor Emmanuel Onunwor; and Chief of Communications to the late George James in his capacity as the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority's first Black executive director. Eric was appointed to serve as a member of the state's Financial Planning & Supervision Commission to guide the East Cleveland school district out of fiscal emergency and $20 million deficit. Former U.S. HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson told Eric in his D.C. office he was the only mayor in the nation simultaneously-managing a municipal block grant program. Eric wrote the city's $2.2 million Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant application. A HUD Inspector General audit of his management of the block grant program resulted in "zero" audit findings. As a newspaper publisher, Eric has used his insider's detailed knowledge of government and his publications to lead the FBI and state prosecutors to investigations that resulted in criminal prosecutions of well-known elected officials in Ohio; and have helped realign Cleveland's political landscape with the defeat of candidates and issues he's exposed. Eric's stories led to the indictments of the late Governor George Voinovich's brother, Paul Voinovich of the V Group, and four associates. He asked the FBI to investigate the mayor he'd served as chief of staff for public corruption; and testified in three federal trials for the prosecution. He forced former Cuyahoga County Coroner Dr. Elizabeth Balraj to admit her investigations of police killings were fraudulent; and to issue notices to local police that her investigators would control police killing investigations. Eric's current work has resulted in Cuyahoga County Judge John Russo accepting the criminal complaint he guided an activist to file against 24 civil rights-violating police officers in the city he once led for operating without valid peace officer credentials. USA Today reporters picked up on Eric's police credentials reporting from his social media page and made it national. Eric is the author of of his first book, "Fight Police License Plate Spying," which examines the FBI and local police misuse of the National Crime Information Center criminal records history database. An accomplished trumpet player and singer whose friendship with Duke Fakir of the Four Tops resulted in his singing the show's closing song, "Can't Help Myself": Curtis Sliwa of New York's Guardian Angels counts Eric among his founding chapter leaders from the early 1980's role as an Ohio organizer of over 300 volunteer crime fighters in Cleveland, Columbus and Youngstown, Ohio. For his work as a young man Eric was recognized by Cleveland's Urban League as it's 1983 Young Man of the Year. Known in Cleveland for his encyclopedic knowledge of government and history, and intimately-connected with the region's players, every local major media outlet in Cleveland has picked up on one of Eric's stories since 1979. There is no mainstream newspaper, television or radio outlet in Cleveland that does not include an interview with Eric Jonathan Brewer in its archives over the past 40 years.

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