In April, Trump donor Franklin L. Haney apparently agreed to pay Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen a $10 million fee for successfully lobbying for the building of an unfinished nuclear power plant in Alabama, according to the Wall Street Journal. The contract also asked Cohen to secure a $5 billion loan from the government for the project.
This new information is part of the investigation into Cohen’s unregistered lobbying efforts which he undertook after Trump took office. Before his office and home were raided by federal agents in early April, Cohen often bragged to potential clients about his personal relationship with Trump.
Haney denied entering into a contract with Cohen for his lobbying.
The Wall Street Journal writes:
Under the contract, Mr. Haney agreed to pay Mr. Cohen a monthly retainer in addition to the $10 million success fee if he could help obtain the funding, including approval of the full amount of the project’s application under a U.S. Department of Energy loan program, the people familiar with the deal said.
Mr. Cohen’s fee would be reduced proportionally if he helped obtain less funding than the contract stipulated, according to a person familiar with the agreement.
This is extremely sketchy, but not technically illegal. Though success fees are sometimes used in Washington, they are not often this substantial. “Several lobbyists contacted by the Journal said $10 million was an unheard-of sum to pay a consultant for government-related work,” the Journal writes. Then there’s the fact that Cohen was never registered as a lobbyist, complicating matters further.
Haney is still attempting to fund the plant’s construction, and has applied for a loan from the US Department of Energy. It seems his courting of Trump was an attempt to speed that along.
Mr. Haney’s company, Nuclear Development, entered into a $111 million contract in November 2016 to purchase the partially completed Bellefonte Nuclear Plant from the Tennessee Valley Authority. Mr. Haney has until November to close on the purchase.
A month after the purchase agreement, in December 2016, Mr. Haney donated $1 million to the Trump inaugural fund through a corporate entity, Federal Election Commission records show. He had previously backed mostly Democrats.
Since the end of 2016, Haney has spent $1.1 million lobbying the government for approval.
Even if a payment this big to a president’s personal lawyer is out of the ordinary, lobbying like Haney’s is a central part of how people get stuff done in America—and that’s a problem. It’s hard to argue that corporations paying third parties millions in clear efforts to influence policy is “good” for democracy.