11/11/2019 22:33 EST | Updated 11/11/2019 22:53 EST

2 Rick Perry Cronies Won Ukraine Oil Deal While Nation Sought U.S. Aid: Report

The Perry supporters and campaign donors won a 50-year oil and gas exploration contract shortly after Volodymyr Zelensky was inaugurated, AP reported.

Two longtime Texas supporters and campaign contributors of outgoing Energy Secretary Rick Perry won a gas and oil drilling deal in Ukraine while the nation was seeking U.S. military aid, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The bid the men submitted for gas and oil exploration rights was not financially competitive and offered millions of dollars less to the country than the sole rival bidder, according to internal Ukrainian government filings, AP reported. 

The 50-year contract was awarded little more than a month after Volodymyr Zelensky was inaugurated as president in May in a ceremony attended by Perry. During that trip, Perry gave Zelensky a list of people he recommended to serve as Ukraine’s energy advisers. One of them was Perry’s Texas donor Michael Bleyzer. A week later, Bleyzer and business partner Alex Cranberg submitted their bid for the drilling contract, according to AP.

The information emerges as President Donald Trump continues to press for an investigation of Joe Biden’s son Hunter because the younger Biden sat on the board of the Burisma energy company in Ukraine while his father was vice president. Joe Biden is a leading rival to Trump in the 2020 presidential race.

At the time the contract to his donors was awarded, the former Texas governor was negotiating with Ukraine about a White House meeting with Trump that Zelensky was seeking, officials have testified in the House impeachment inquiry.

Military aid for the nation had been approved by Congress but was being held up by Trump. The president pressed Zelensky in a July phone call to launch an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden because of vague, baseless claims of corruption. The call is now a centerpiece of the House impeachment inquiry.

Perry’s spokesperson told AP that Perry has championed the U.S. energy industry all over the world, including in Ukraine. “What he did not do is advocate for the business interests of any one individual or company,” said Energy Department press secretary Shaylyn Hynes.

Bleyzer told AP that Perry did not help him get the energy contract. And a lawyer for Cranberg’s company Aspect Holdings said that Perry supported “a fair, competitive process.”