LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Top Congressional Democrats say they’re "deeply alarmed by a Russian company's plan to invest $200 million into the aluminum plant planned by Braidy Industries in Ashland, Ky.
In a letter dated Thursday, eight high-ranking Democrats called on the U.S. Treasury Department to conduct a "review" into the investment by En+ Group and its subsidiary, the aluminum giant Rusal.
I'm deeply alarmed about this foreign investment in a company connected to the federal government. There needs to be a national security review of this project, now.— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) May 17, 2019
En+ Group is partially owned by Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who is under personal U.S. sanctions for his close ties to the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin.
With the support of Kentucky’s senators – Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul – the Treasury lifted sanctions on En+ Group and Rusal were in January, which paved the way for the company’s investment in the Kentucky project.
McConnell has said his support for removing those sanctions was unrelated to Rusal’s investment in Braidy Industries, which was announced in April.
Rusal will become the primary supplier of aluminum to Braidy Industries’ rolling mill, which is projected to open in 2021.
Rusal’s $200 million puts Braidy Industries closer to securing the $500 million in equity needed to finance construction of the $1.7 billion mill. Braidy Industries has also been selling shares to the general public since last fall, netting about $12 million.
Kentucky taxpayers became one of Braidy Industries’ earliest investors when Republican Gov. Matt Bevin put $15 million of public money into the company in 2017.
On Friday, Bevin dismissed Democrats’ concerns about Russian involvement in the Kentucky project, saying the United States needs investments from other countries.
“The reality is, if we don’t get people to invest here, the trade deficit will never shrink,” Bevin told WDRB. “The president is very determined to see the trade deficits shrink. It is for the betterment of America. We want foreign money creating jobs for Americans in the United States of America. Anybody who attacks this doesn’t have a clue what is needed to right-size the economies of the world and cure the trade imbalance that exist between us and other nations.”
The U.S. imported more goods from Russia than it exported to the country in 2018, leading to a $14 billion trade deficit, according to government statistics.
However, the Braidy-Rusal deal would actually lead to more imports from Russia. It calls for Rusal to sell primary aluminum slabs worth $500 million a year to Braidy Industries. Most the supply would be produced at a Rusal smelter under construction in Siberia, the Wall Street Journal reported last month.
U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville, the only Democrat representing Kentucky in Congress, was not among the eight representatives and senators who signed the letter, but he said in an interview Friday that he shares their concerns.
"I think it’s almost mandatory that the Treasury Department look into this deal to make sure there is no national security issue," Yarmuth said.
A Braidy Industries spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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