WASHINGTON.- The government of Puerto Rico will keep its contract with lobbying firm Avenue Strategies, despite the quitting of former campaign director for Donald Trump, Corey Lewandowski, the consultant whom the administration of Ricardo Rosselló Nevares went looking for when it hired the firm.
“Avenue Strategies is the firm retained by PRFAA. It was hired because all of its personnel is qualified to do the work that the Government of Puerto Rico has asked it to do in Washington, D.C.”, said, in a statement, Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) director, Carlos Mercader.
Lewandowski announced on Thursday to have left the consulting firm he co-founded with Barry Bennett, another former Trump adviser, for understanding that agreements were entered into with “foreign” companies without his consent.
The announcement came after it was learned that Avenue was outsourced by another Rosselló Nevares lobbyist, Manuel Ortiz, president of Vantage Knights, to further efforts in favor of oil refiner CITGO.
Ortiz had sought Avenue’s help to approach the Trump government, at a time in which CITGO –a subsidiary of Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA)-, could fear being exposed to sanctions against the Venezuelan government.
According to Politico, it was Ortiz –who’s been CITGO’s lobbyist, has ties with the Democrats and is well known in Washington,- who proposed to governor Rosselló Nevares to contract with the company of Republican Lewandowski. Ortiz is very close to the Rosselló family.
Lewandowski told Politico that Bennett made deals with foreign clients without his consent, through an Avenue subsidiary under the name of “Washington East West Political Consulting”.
Also leaving Avenue, together with Lewandowski, is Carlos Julio Giménez, son of Miami-Dade mayor, who said he will “never personally represent the interests of (the president of Venezuela, Nicolás) Maduro”.
Lewandowski’s exit from Avenue came one day after ethics group “Public Citizen” lodged a complaints against him for possible violation of lobbying norms.
The complaint -lodged with US secretary of Justice, Jeff Sessions, Secretary of the Senate clerk, Julie Adams, and Secretary of the House of Representatives, Karen Hass,- states that Lewandowski failed to register as a lobbyist with the Senate and violated the foreign agents registration act (to conduct such work in the United States).
Lewandowski has said his work is not purely to lobby, but to help fashion the message of his clients toward the government of president Trump, with whom he keeps a close relationship.
Public Citizen said in its complaint that governor Rosselló Nevares decided to retain Avenue under the premise that Lewandowski would get it “one-on-one meetings” with Trump government officials.
Despite the contract with Avenue Strategies and Lewandowski’s work, the US Department of Justice initially refused, last April 13, to validate the plebiscite on status as legislated and is still keeping the new measure under review, which could cause the postponement of the date for the consultation.
Meanwhile, Trump himself –through twits and in an interview with Reuters,- led the opposition to the $296 million allocation in Medicaid funds, that was part of a spending bill which finally became law on Friday.
Avenue has a contract with the PRFAA, of up to $125,000, covering the months from March through June. Advantage Knight, for its part, has a contract with the Industrial Development Company (PRIDCO) that allows it to invoice up to $250,000 for three months until June 30.
Though he’s a critic of the government of Venezuela, Rosselló ruled out any conflict with Ortiz being a CITGO consultant while advising his government. Ever since last summer, Ortiz had informed the US Senate to have had income or expenses over CITGO of close to $870,000.