Is Senator Susan Collins’ Husband a ‘Lobbyist for Russian Interests’?

Conspiracy mongers attempted to draw a line between two unrelated things by linking them to more unrelated things.

Claim

Thomas Daffron, Sen. Susan Collins' husband, is "a lobbyist for a firm that has numerous connections to Russia and Russian oligarchs."

Rating

Origin

The rancorous, partisan fight over the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh spilled over into the personal lives of senators. Senator Susan Collins of Maine was thought to be the one Republican who might break ranks with the GOP and vote against Kavanaugh’s nomination, but she drew heavy criticism from disappointed Democrats when she ended up toeing the party line — on top of which her husband, Thomas Daffron, was accused of being a lobbyist with “Russia connections.”

Daffrom worked for the Washington, D.C.-based Jefferson Consulting Group from 5 September 2006 until 7 June 2016 as chief operating officer. During his tenure with Jefferson, Daffron told us, the firm had no Russian clients. Furthermore, in his management role he was responsible for overseeing company operations such as budgeting and hiring, not lobbying activities. He said he initially thought the claims were a joke: “It’s so absurd I don’t know where to start,” Daffron told us about the accusation. “It’s like someone coming up and saying you have three heads.” Nevertheless the rumor has continued to dog him.

The claim first appeared on social media in September 2018 but gained new momentum on 6 October 2018 when, after a series of bellicose hearings, Collins joined the Republican majority in the Senate and voted to confirm Kavanaugh. Just over a week prior, California college professor Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when the two were teens, an allegation Kavanaugh vehemently denied. In the days leading up to the final vote, Collins was the subject of intense scrutiny because as a moderate, she was seen as one of the Republican majority’s swing voters.

After Collins announced she would vote to confirm Kavanaugh, “progressive” blog DeepLeftField.info published an article with the headline “EXPOSED: Susan Collins’ Husband Is a Lobbyist for Russian Interests”:

When she stood on the floor of the Senate Friday afternoon and announced that she would be voting to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to be the next associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, the question was immediately asked: Why would she do such a thing? How could a woman ignore the accusations made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford against Kavanaugh?

Now, a day later, we may have an answer to why Senator Collins made the decision she did. It turns out that she’s married to a man, Thomas Daffron, who just so happens to be a lobbyist for a firm that has numerous connections to Russia and Russian oligarchs.

The story was sourced entirely from a string of posts written one month earlier by Twitter personality Eric Garland, who has 179,000 followers. On 9 September 2018, Garland wrote:

The key pieces of information laid out as evidence of Daffron’s “Russia connections,” however, were either misleading or false.

Perhaps the most spurious information tidbits were claims that small lobbying contracts performed by Jefferson Consulting on behalf of two Alaskan towns, Kenai and Cordova, were suspicious because of their geographical proximity to Russia, or the fact that those tiny communities have historical Russian settlements:

Daffron confirmed that Jefferson Consulting did work for those towns but added the work had “not a scintilla” of relation to Russia.

Citing company accounting records, Daffron told us Kenai paid Jefferson Consulting a grand total of $10,871.03 in 2009 to lobby Washington for federal help repairing bluff erosion, while Cordova paid Jefferson a total of $36,396.80 over an 18-month period ending in 2011 to lobby the federal government for appropriations. Cities sometimes hire lobbyists on Capitol Hill because “for the price of an airline ticket they can get someone to work in D.C. on their behalf,” Daffron told us.

“Alaska is close to Russia as Maine is close to Canada, but that doesn’t mean we did any business with them,” Daffron said. “[Jefferson] is a multi-million dollar firm, these [were] not big contracts.”

Garland also claimed that Daffron left his post as chief of staff for the late Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tennessee), who was “mixed up in Watergate and the Savings and Loan scandal,” to found Jefferson Consulting Group:

But Jefferson Consulting was in fact established by CEO and owner Julie Susman before Daffron was hired, as documented on 20 September 2005 by D.C.-oriented news publication The Hill:

Jefferson Consulting Group lobbies, but its main business focus has been on federal marketing. The practice matches client products with federal-agency needs.

Business is booming, according to firm founder Julie Susman. The firm has added 10 employees, for a total of 45, in the past two years, and Susman expects revenues to grow as much as 30 percent this year. She does not disclose the revenues that fall outside of the LDA reports.

As evidence of Daffron’s supposed involvement in foreign corruption, Garland reported that in 2003, “Daffron’s lobbying firm” represented Baker Botts LLP, a Texas-based law firm who is registered as a foreign agent with the Department of Justice:

But as we’ve already reported, Daffron didn’t begin his employment with Jefferson Consulting until 2006, three years after they represented Baker Botts. And Baker Botts didn’t register as a foreign agent until very recently, due to work they performed in 2017 on behalf of the Cayman Islands.

Moreover, Daffron wasn’t employed as a lobbyist, and calling Jefferson Consulting “Daffron’s lobbying firm” creates the false impression that he is the founder and owner, when that has never been the case.

We were unable to locate contact information for the blog Deep Left Info, but we reached out to Garland for comment, who told us:

I have not said Thomas Daffron is a Russian spy. I have said this is somebody who has worked for these following clients and, for example, with regards to the two cities in Alaska, they are unquestionably the Russian homeland in Alaska, with Russian Orthodox churches in them that go back centuries. You will find this is a matter of Russian political interest as in, there are extremists in Russia who talk about taking Alaska back. The fact that Alaska used to be part of the Russian empire and not the U.S. has been mentioned by Russian politicians. In that thread, I was merely pointing out, that’s a very interesting thing to be lobbying on behalf of those two cities. I’m not making conclusions based on that, that’s for federal prosecutors.

Other than the fact that Kavanaugh’s confirmation and Russian election interference have been a focus of interest for Republican opponents, it’s unclear how those two subjects are supposedly linked in some sinister way through Collins and her husband.

Sources
  • Snyder, Jim.   “Lobbying Firms Branch Out to Conquer New Territory.”
        The Hill.   20 September 2005.

  • Pindell, James.   “With Brett Kavanaugh Vote, Susan Collins Is in Middle of a Firestorm.”
        Boston Globe.   18 September 2018.

  • Arkin, James.   “Dems Line Up to Take on Collins After Kavanaugh Vote.”
        Politico.   9 October 2018.

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