By John Bowden
Two political backers of Energy Secretary Rick Perry landed a lucrative oil and gas exploration deal from Ukraine’s government shortly after Perry reportedly included one of the two men in a list of suggested potential advisers to Ukraine’s new president, according to The Associated Press.
The AP reported Monday that Michael Bleyzer was among four names Perry had recommended to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Bleyzer and partner Alex Cranberg later got a contract to drill for oil and gas despite despite offering a bid that was lower than their only other competitor, the AP reported citing internal Ukrainian government documents.
The contract was awarded to Bleyzer and Cranberg because they were deemed as having better technical expertise and stronger financial backing, the AP also reported, citing the documents.
A major GOP donor, Bleyzer supported Perry’s unsuccessful 2012 bid for the Republican presidential nomination. He is based in Perry’s home state of Texas.
He told the AP in a statement that Perry’s conversations with Ukraine’s government “did not play any role in Ukrainian Energy winning its bid” in the country and added that the process “will hopefully serve as an example of how the Ukrainian energy market can be opened for new investments.”
A spokesperson for the Energy Department denied to The Hill that Perry advocated for any specific U.S. figures or business interests during his conversations with Ukraine’s government.
“Throughout his tenure, Secretary Perry has championed the American energy industry all over the world. As previously stated, throughout his engagements with Ukrainian officials Secretary Perry has consistently called for the modernization and reform of Kyiv’s business and energy sector in an effort to create an environment that will incentivize Western companies to do business in Ukraine,” said spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes.
“He delivered that same message during his visit to Ukraine for the Inauguration of President Zelenskyy [sic]. What he did not do is advocate for the business interests of any one individual or company,” she added.
The awarding of a contract to a Perry political ally in Ukraine comes as President Trump‘s own conversation with Ukraine’s president about opening an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden has become central to the House’s impeachment inquiry.
Perry has refused to turn over documents related to his interactions with Ukraine as part of the Trump administration’s policies, as requested by a House subpoena.
Article updated at 4:24 p.m. to include a complete statement from the Department of Energy.