A Texas businessman and former donor to Energy Secretary Rick Perry landed an exclusive energy extraction contract in Ukraine after Perry boosted him and his associate, the Associated Press reported Monday.
The American duo weren’t top bidders for the contract, but they beat the competition on other factors under consideration by the body that awards drilling rights, including technical expertise and financial resources, according to documents the AP reviewed.
The gas rights revelation adds even more weight to Perry’s role in the Ukraine scandal that threatens President Donald Trump with impeachment. Perry and two other men, EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland and former Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker, were dubbed the “three amigos” for their role in Trump’s Ukraine pressure campaign.
The energy secretary has said he’ll resign by the end of the year and has refused to cooperate with the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry.
The rights to extract oil and gas from the 1,340-square-mile block of land for up to 50 years went for $53 million, the AP reported, despite another Ukrainian company bidding more than $60 million.
The lower bid came from a company controlled by the former Perry donor, Michael Bleyzer, and his partner and fellow Perry associate Alex Cranberg.
Perry has talked up both men as players in the Ukrainian energy market, the AP’s reporting has shown.
In October, the AP and Politico reported that Bleyzer was among a handful of names Perry offered — at the newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s inauguration in May — as suggestions for new board members on the Ukrainian state-run natural gas company Naftogaz.
Bleyzer contributed $30,000 to Perry in 2010, the AP reported, and was subsequently appointed to a technology fund post by the then-Texas governor. He’s frequently visited Perry at his Energy Department office, including just before Perry led the U.S. delegation to Zelesky’s inauguration, records show.
And Perry name-dropped Cranberg, himself a deep-pocketed GOP donor, at a 2018 event on the Ukrainian energy indsustry, according to a transcript of his remarks. Cranberg let Perry use his private jet during Perry’s unsuccessful 2012 presidential bid, the AP noted. In 2011, Perry appointed Cranberg to a six-term term on the University of Texas System board of regents.
Bleyzer and Cranberg submitted their bid a week after Zelesky’s inauguration, and secured the rights despite being outbid by UkrGasVydobuvannya, a subsidiary of Naftogaz.
An Energy Department spokesperson told the AP that Perry did not “advocate for the business interests of any one individual or company.” Bleyzer said he did not believe Perry’s conversations with Ukrainian officials, “if they in fact took place,” played any role in his venture winning the contract. And a spokesperson for Bleyzer’s company Aspect Holdings said it “neither sought, nor to our knowledge received, special intervention on its behalf.”