A Major Russian-American Oil Magnate Is Putting Big Money Behind Trump’s Campaign

Simon Kukes, who has headed top Russian oil companies, has given more than $150,000 to Trump.

Misha Japaridze/AP

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.


On Monday, Donald Trump’s campaign continued to come under fire for its mysterious—and seemingly ever expanding—connections to Russia, as one of his foreign policy advisers, Carter Page, left the campaign amid allegations that he held meetings with Russian government officials and discussed possibly lifting US sanctions in the event of a Trump presidency. (Page called these allegations “complete garbage.”)

Now there’s another Russian connection to add the list: Open Secrets reported Monday that Simon Grigorievich Kukes, a Russian-American oil magnate who has headed a number of Russian oil companies, has given more than $150,000 to the Trump campaign and Trump Victory, the campaign’s joint fundraising committee, since March of this year. These donations mark the first time he’s contributed to federal elections, according to FEC filings.

Kukes, a US citizen who was born in the former USSR and immigrated in his twenties, has worked at or led a number of Russian oil companies. After returning to Russia in 1995 to be a vice president at the Moscow office of Amoco oil, an American company, he went to work as a vice president at Yukos oil, one of Russia’s largest oil companies. In 1998, he was hired to lead Tyumen, a large Russian oil producer, as president and CEO; in 2003, Kukes returned to Yukos on the heels of the high-profile ouster of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the company’s president and then the richest man in Russia. Khodorkovsky was sentenced to 10 years in prison on tax evasion charges that are widely-believed to have been trumped up by the Putin administration as retaliation for the billionaire’s advocacy for democracy and corporate governance reform

Kukes took over as Yukos’ CEO in June 2003 following Khodorkovsky’s exit, but left the company a year later to become the co-owner of a different Russian oil company, Samara-Nafta.

On his donation filings, Kukes lists himself as retired, but Open Secrets notes that he’s still involved in the oil industry: He’s the CEO of NAFTA Consulting, a group that advises oil companies in the US and Russia, and is on the board of Leverate, a software company that hosts trading platforms. And Kukes isn’t just a fan of Trump’s presidential campaign: In 2000, he bought a five-room condo for $1.7 million in Manhattan’s Trump Parc.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.