Billionaire mogul with Russia ties emerges as major donor to Hochul

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Billionaire mogul with Russia ties emerges as major donor to Hochul

A Soviet-born billionaire with close ties to US-sanctioned Russian oligarchs has emerged as a top donor to Gov. Kathy Hochul, according to campaign records that show a flurry of political contributions across the board.

Len Blavatnik donated $69,700 — the maximum allowed — to Hochul’s election campaign since she took over as governor following Andrew Cuomo’s resignation in August, campaign records filed with the state Board of Elections reveal.

Blavatnik, 64, delivered an initial $10,000 to Hochul’s gubernatorial campaign on Nov. 11, then $59,700 on Jan. 12, the filings show.

The aluminum and oil tycoon also donated $180,000 to Cuomo over two decades. Adding contributions from his wife Emily and brother, Alex, the contributions to the disgraced governor totals $191,900, according to the BOE records.

And, with an estimated worth of $34.2 billion, Blavatnik certainly has money to burn.

He gave $2,800 to President Biden in 2020 and $2,900 to Sen. Charles Schumer last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics opensecrets.org website. He also pitched in $5,000 to Shaun Donovan for mayor and $2,500 to Ray McGuire’s candidacy last year.

Len Blavatnik
As an American citizen, Blavatnik’s campaign contributions are legal.
David M. Benett/Getty Images

Even Bo Dietl, who ran a quixotic campaign for mayor in 2017, received a $4,000 donation from him.

In New York, Blavatnik also donated to the campaigns to two other bad boys of politics — $104,100 to former state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who resigned amid sex abuse allegations, and $19,500 to ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s campaign committee. Spitzer — aka “Client No. 9” — stepped down following a prostitution scandal in 2007.

Elsewhere, Blavatnik donated a combined $50,000 apiece to the New York State Democratic Committee and the Southampton Democratic Party.

He also gave $25,000 to former Gov. David Paterson’s campaign committee in 2009.

Even former Mayor Bill de Blasio benefitted from the Blavatnik’s largesse. He and his wife Emily kicked in a combined $9,990 to his 2013 campaign.

The list goes on. Other recipients of his generosity include former Manhattan District Attorneys Robert Morgenthau ($20,000) and Cy Vance Jr. ($17,500), and Democratic Reps. Hakeem Jeffries and Carolyn Maloney.

But when it comes to campaign contributions, Blavatnik is no partisan or ideologue — he is an equal opportunity giver.

For example, he donated $2,400 to the congressional campaign kitty of Long Island Rep. Lee Zeldin — now the leading Republican contender for governor — in 2016.

On the national level, he also gave $1 million to former President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee and has donated millions more to candidates and treasuries of both political parties — the Republican National Campaign Committee, the Senate Republican Campaign Committee and some to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

He donated $2,800 to Republican Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 campaign for president.

Blavatnik has also given to pols through his company, Access Industries, records show.

State Board of Elections filings show that through Access Industries, he donated an additional:

  • $239,300 to Cuomo’s campaign
  • $177,000 to Schneiderman
  • $100,000 to the state Democratic Party Committee
  • as well as $25,000 to state Attorney General Letitia James’ campaign in 2018
  • and $19,000 to Hochul for lieutenant governor in 2014

Access Industries also gave $62,000 to Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Nassau) in 2013 and $50,000 to the New York State Republican Party.

Corporations are allowed to give to candidates for state offices, but not city or federal. 

As reported by The Post last week, Blavatnik — a citizen of both the US and UK who is said to be the richest man in Britain — owns a stable of pricey Manhattan properties.

Kathy Hochul
New York Governor Kathy Hochul speaks during a COVID-19 press conference on February 09, 2022 in New York City.
Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

He was born in Odessa, Ukraine under Soviet rule and moved to Russia as a child. He made his way to Brooklyn in 1978, later graduating from Columbia University and Harvard. He now owns Warner Music, as well as numerous firms through his parent company, Access Industries.

Blavatknik struck it rich in 2013 when Russian autocrat President Vladimir Putin reportedly brokered a deal for the Russian government-controlled Rosneft petrol company to buy TNK-BP oil company for $30 billion. Blavatnik, a co-owner/investor of TNK-BP and his partners received billions of dollars as part of the sale.

“It is fair to consider Blavatnik the most successful oligarch to emerge from the post-Soviet space,” said Casey Michel, author of the book “American Kleptocracy: How the U.S. Created the Greatest Money Laundering Scheme in History.”

Two of his close Russian business partners, oligarchs Viktor Vekselberg and Oleg Deripaska, were sanctioned by the US Treasury Department after Russia was accused of meddling in 2016 elections.

Kremlin-connected oligarchs and those who’ve made their fortunes in Russian business deals have come under renewed scrutiny amid Putin’s military invasion of Ukraine. European authorities have seized the yachts of oligarchs in response to the incursion.

Unlike his pals, Blavatnik, who is Jewish, has not been sanctioned.

As an American citizen, Blavatnik’s multitude of campaign contributions are legal.

But Casey Michel, who studies oligarchs, said American politicians and academic institutions shouldn’t accept Blavatnik’s donations because of his business dealings with Kremlin-tied tycoons.

“There is enough smoke here you can choke on it,” Michel said.

“This is what Blavatnik does. He donates on either side of the political aisle. All too often these politicians are all too happy to accept his money. They should not accept these funds.”

Academic institutions and think tanks including Oxford University (Blavatnik School of Government) , MIT and his alma mater Harvard University (Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School) and the Council on Foreign Relations have been criticized for accepting millions of dollars in donations from the billionaire industrialist over his Russian ties.

Blavantik, via a statement through his Access Industries company, defended his donations.

“As an American citizen for nearly 40 years, Mr. Blavatnik has made donations in support of both Democrats and Republicans,” the statement said. “The donations are motivated by his desire to further a pro-business, pro-Israel agenda in government. The donations are a matter of public record and comply with all legal requirements.”

Hochul’s campaign had no comment.

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