One of the supporters listed on the page is Blackstone’s Schwarzman, who, as a member of Trump’s informal “kitchen Cabinet,” reportedly speaks to the president on a regular basis.
Schwarzman also chaired an administration advisory group of CEOs that was disbanded last August after Trump insisted that “both sides are to blame” for deadly violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.
A spokesman for Blackstone did not respond to an inquiry from CNBC about the donation. But the Renova Fort Ross Foundation’s Facebook page publicly thanked Schwarzman in 2015 for supporting an art-related fundraiser it held in San Francisco.
Major corporations like Cisco Systems and PepsiCo are also listed as contributors, as is MIT, which still collaborates with a Vekselberg-led tech institute in Russia. A Pepsi spokesman confirmed that the company donated to the 2012 bicentennial dinner, where its former CEO was among the honorees.
Representatives for MIT and Cisco did not respond to requests for comment from CNBC about what they had donated to the foundation.
As Renova and Vekselberg spent millions building relationships in California, he and his associates were also busy shelling out big bucks for access to power in Washington.
Between 2001 and 2015, the Renova Group and Columbus Nova have spent a combined $1.7 million on Washington lobbyists, according to disclosures filed with the Senate.
After sitting out the 2016 presidential election, Columbus Nova and its CEO, Intrater, went all in for Trump, donating $250,000 to his inaugural committee. Intrater and cousin Vekselberg attended a number of Trump’s inauguration events.
It was during these events that Intrater reportedly first crossed paths with Cohen, whom he quickly agreed to hire as a consultant to Columbus Nova for $50,000 a month.
And even though the 2020 presidential election was more than three years away, in 2017 Intrater decided to become a major Republican political donor. On June 26, he gave $35,000 to the Trump Victory Fund and $29,600 to the Republican National Committee. Prior to 2017, Intrater had no significant history of political contributions to either party.
As a foreign national, Vekselberg is prohibited from donating to a U.S. election, and a spokesman for Vekselberg told NBC News this week that the billionaire had nothing to do with Columbus Nova’s decision to hire Cohen.
Vekselberg did, however, donate money to the Clinton Foundation, the nonprofit charitable organization founded by former President Bill Clinton. Donor records show that Renova Group has donated $50,000 to $100,000, and a subsidiary of Renova, OC Oerlikon, has donated $10,000 to $25,000. Clinton Foundation records do not show when the donations were made, and none of Renova’s U.S. associates returned emails or messages from CNBC.