Russians, yachts and money

Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images There are two stories today about Western politicans soliciting donations from Russian citizens. One is just funny, the other, a potentially bigger deal. The BBC reports that Russia’s U.N. ambassador Vitaly Churkin has been receiving mailers from McCain’s campaign asking for help to “stop the Democrats from seizing control of ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
591948_081021_scandal5.jpg
591948_081021_scandal5.jpg

Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

There are two stories today about Western politicans soliciting donations from Russian citizens. One is just funny, the other, a potentially bigger deal.

The BBC reports that Russia's U.N. ambassador Vitaly Churkin has been receiving mailers from McCain's campaign asking for help to "stop the Democrats from seizing control of Washington and implementing their radically liberal policy for our nation."

Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

There are two stories today about Western politicans soliciting donations from Russian citizens. One is just funny, the other, a potentially bigger deal.

The BBC reports that Russia’s U.N. ambassador Vitaly Churkin has been receiving mailers from McCain’s campaign asking for help to “stop the Democrats from seizing control of Washington and implementing their radically liberal policy for our nation.”

It’s obviously just a mistake so there’s no foul here, but Russia’s U.N. mission seems to be relishing the opportunity to embarrass Mr. “We are all Georgians.” As McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said, “it sounds like they’re having a little fun at our expense.”

If the British media seems to be overselling the Churkin story, it’s probably an attempt to tie it to a British scandal with potentially far more serious implications. In a letter to the Times of London today, hedge fund manager Nathaniel Rothschild accused shadow chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne (above) of soliciting a donation to the Conservative Party from Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska while all three were vacationing on the Greek Island of Corfu over the Summer.

Rothschild suggests that Osborne asked for £50,000 on board Deripaska’s private yacht and discussed with a Tory fund raiser how the Russian citizen’s donation could be channeled through one of the British companies he owns. Osborne has denied soliciting the donation, though he admits spending time on the yacht. The Osborne allegations are actually just the latest twist in a scandal that until now focused on European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, a Labour Party member, who also availed himself of Deripaska’s hospitality at the same gathering.

Memo to politicians everywhere: Even if you’re not doing anything explicitly illegal, avoid spending time on yachts with wealthy foreign nationals. It never looks good.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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