Florida businessman receives millions of dollars from Russia propaganda machine to amp up Putin’s claims that Zelensky wants to start World War III and Ukraine is just a ‘concept,’ not a country, on US airwaves
Arnold Ferolito, whose wife is Russian, has been paid more than $2M to broadcast Russian propaganda network, Radio Sputnik, on US airwaves amid the invasion of Ukraine
Ferolito, 79, receives millions of dollars from Russia to amplify Putin’s propaganda claiming Zelensky wants to start World War III and Ukraine is just a ‘concept,’ not a country to US listeners
The Bronx born transplant to Florida sells air time to Russian programmers through his one man company, RM Broadcasting, which is registered to his home in Jupiter, Florida
Filings show Ferolito was hired in 2017 by the ‘Federal State Unitary Enterprise Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency’
The Russian-owned and operated media group is paying Ferolito to air Radio Sputnik in Washington DC, and Kansas City, Missouri
In 2020 Ferolito signed another deal for $1.9M to transmit the Putin-backed radio station until December 2023
RM Broadcasting’s registered address is at Ferolito’s home in Admirals Cove in Jupiter, Florida, whose residents also include Donald Trump Jr
Ferolito’s federal filing admits that Sputnik is ‘a government-funded news agency that was created by executive order of Russian President Vladimir Putin on December 9, 2013’
Still he sued the US Department of Justice in 2020 when it ordered him to register as a foreign agent over his deal to broadcast the Kremlin’s station
Russia is spending millions of dollars to keep its radio propaganda network on US airwaves while it continues to brutally bombard Ukrainian cities, according to government filings.
The Florida-based radio broadcaster allegedly, is being paid over $2million to transmit Moscow’s programming across two major US cities amid the ongoing invasion.
And hundreds of thousands more are going to smaller entities that are ensuring Vladimir Putin‘s propaganda can be heard in other markets, the filings state.
Arnold Ferolito, a 79-year-old Jupiter based businessman, has been getting the financial backing of the Russian government to broadcast Radio Sputnik from his family home, located in an exclusive development in Jupiter, Florida, whose residents include Donald Trump Jr. and his fiancée Kimberly Guilfoyle.
According to his filings made under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, Ferolito was hired in 2017 by the ‘Federal State Unitary Enterprise Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency’, a media group owned and operated by the Russian government, to air Radio Sputnik in Washington D.C. and Kansas City, Missouri.
Ferolito reportedly, was hired in 2017 by the Federal State Unitary Enterprise Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency in Moscow to broadcast Sputnik in Washington, DC, and Kansas City, Missouri.
Ferolito has been paid more than $2million under his contracts, and in January 2020 signed another deal for $1,980,000 to transmit the Putin-backed radio station until December 2023.
Through his company, RM Broadcasting, which operates out of $1million dollar home at Admirals Cove, Fort Lauderdale, Ferolito buys airtime on stations and then leases it to programmers. The practice is similar to running TV infomercials.
Arnold Ferolito, born in the Bronx, New York is a Florida transplant who decided to forgo his premature retirement 13 years ago. His one-man business, RM Broadcasting, buys airtime from Federal Communications Commission licensees and then sells it to programmers.
Ferolito’s business with Russia drew criticism in recent years after it led him to be recognized as a foreign agent. He has no qualms about his business practices as he told the Palm Beach Post in 2020: ‘I think everybody has a right to hear and listen to what they want.
‘I’m not a foreign agent. I sell time, just like somebody selling electricity,’ he added.
He also said he had ‘no knowledge of the content of Rossiya Segodnya’s radio programs, no input in that content, and no intent to advance the interests of Rossiya Segodnya or Russia.’
‘They had no problem with what I was doing for years, then all of a sudden Trump comes along and I have to register because everything is Russia, Russia, Russia,’ Ferolito, a registered Republican, told the paper.
RM Broadcasting’s registered address is his $1million home, neighboring a waterfront golf club at Admirals Cove in Jupiter, Florida. Ferolito and his Russian-born wife Olga live in a four-bed family home, about a mile and a half from Donald Trump Jr.’s $9.7million home, in the exclusive development.
Ferolito sued the Department of Justice in 2020 when it ordered him to register as a foreign agent over his deal to broadcast the Kremlin’s station, arguing he was just selling air time and had nothing to do with the channel’s content, but lost.
Since then he has been obligated to file reports with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act [FARA], a law designed to keep tabs on people working for foreign governments in the US.
One filing from June 2019 includes a contract between Ferolito’s company and Rossiya Segodnya, dated November 17, 2017.
Under the contract, Ferolito promised to broadcast Radio Sputnik in DC for three years from December 2017 to the end of 2020, earning him an advance payment of $305,250 and a total of $2,035,000. Ferolito’s federal filing admits that Sputnik is ‘a government-funded news agency that was created by executive order of Russian President Vladimir Putin on December 9, 2013’, and that ‘the agency is incorporated and registered in the Russian Federation.’
His filing says: ‘Radio Sputnik reports abroad on the state policy of the Russian Federation and public life in the Russian Federation.’
Another December 2019 contract secured $324,000 for Ferolito’s company to broadcast in Kansas City on an AM radio frequency between January 1 2020 and the end of 2022.
His most recent contract, filed with the US government in December 2020, says he will be paid $1,980,000, including an advance payment of $297,000, to continue broadcasting Sputnik in DC 24 hours a day until November 30 2023.
Rossiya Segodnya’s current director general, Dmitry Kiselev, was sanctioned by the European Union in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea, and has been banned from entering Ukraine since then.
In a May 2014 speech, Kiselev called Ukraine a ‘failed state’ and a ‘virtual concept’.
‘There is no Ukraine. That is only a virtual concept, a virtual country. If you want to live in a virtual world, please do,’ he said, according to a report by Russian site Republic.ru.
Two years later he admitted using fake documents in his weekly news show Vesti Nedeli, in a segment comparing the US to Nazi Germany.
Rossiya Segodnya translates as ‘Russia Today’. But the TV news channel RT, formerly known as Russia Today, claims it is ‘in no way related’ to its organization.
However Rossiya Segodnya’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan is also RT’s editor-in-chief.
Simonyan was sanctioned by the EU in February this year for ‘actions and policies which undermine the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine,’ and promoting ‘a positive attitude to the annexation of Crimea and the actions of separatists in Donbas.’
On February 24 she tweeted about Russia’s invasion: ‘This is a standard parade rehearsal, It’s just that this year we decided to hold the parade in Kyiv.’
During broadcasts, Sputnik’s radio hosts justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, describing it instead as ‘an intervention’ and claiming the country committed ‘crimes’ against its Russian-speaking nationals while pointing to ‘encroachment’ by NATO.
After Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky made a statement to Congress last week appealing for a no-fly zone over his country, Radio Sputnik talk show hosts questioned whether he ‘actually knows what he’s saying’, and featured lengthy commentary from guests claiming he wanted to start World War III.
Hosts Manila Chan and Faran Fronczak asked whether videos shown to Congress of fleeing refugees and the devastation wrought by Russia’s invasion were ‘manufacturing consent’ for US involvement in the war. Interviewee, author Daniel Lazare, replied: ‘This is the biggest propaganda campaign since World War II,’ and said reporting on the conflict was ‘totally one-sided’.
In another show last week host Jamarl Thomas focused on Russia’s ‘peace overtures’ and ‘security concerns’ before its invasion of Ukraine, asked whether America ‘used Ukraine as a patsy… for US geopolitical interests,’ and accused the US of ‘getting Ukrainians killed with this particular strategy of arming these guys.’
A January 2017 a US intelligence report accused Sputnik of spreading misinformation to influence the 2016 presidential election. The station has also drawn criticism for spreading conspiracy theories that chemical weapon attacks in Syria were a hoax.
The Kansas City Star accused Ferolito of putting ‘business above patriotism’ in a 2020 editorial and warned listeners to ‘beware of Russia’s Radio Sputnik propaganda’.
In the fiery editorial, the paper claimed Ferolito was ‘taking another jackhammer to the already-pulverized media landscape that has news consumers unsure if facts even exist anymore.’
‘It’s sad, but not astonishing, that an American entrepreneur would put business above patriotism,’ the paper said in the January 2020 opinion piece.
However RM Broadcasting is not the only US outlet for the Russian propaganda machine. On March 1, the head of the top lobby group for radio and television broadcasters in the US asked his members to pull any Russia-sponsored programming.
‘While the First Amendment protects freedom of speech, however, it does not prevent private actors from exercising sound, moral judgment,’ National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) President Curtis LeGeyt said in a statement.
‘To that end, given the unprovoked aggression exhibited by Russia against the free and sovereign people of Ukraine, NAB calls on broadcasters to cease carrying any state-sponsored programming with ties to the Russian government or its agents.’
The plea angered other companies who, like Ferolito, are paid to broadcast Radio Sputnik in the US. Smalltime radio company Alpine Broadcasting, based in Clay County, Missouri, usually broadcasts religious programming and conservative talk shows on its station KCXL. But for six hours a day, it switches to playing Radio Sputnik.
CEO Pete Schartel said in a statement that the NAB ‘threw both our cherished First Amendment right of free speech and the preservation of independent broadcast voices under the bus by calling for the silencing of broadcasters which carry Russian sponsored programming.’
Virginia-based broadcaster Reston Translator LLC, part owned by communications attorney John Garziglia, is also registered under FARA as a Russian agent.
The company used to specialize in bluegrass music broadcasts.
But a December 2019 contract filed with the Justice Department shows Garziglia’s firm was paid $1,080,000 to rebroadcast Radio Sputnik from WZHF, Capitol Heights, Maryland to W288BS, Reston, Virginia from January 2020 to December 2022.
A third company, Ghebi LLC, registered under FARA in September 2020. The company, based on the well-known lobbyists’ haunt of K Street in Washington DC, signed a $5.2million contract with Rossiya Segodnya that year to create radio and web content for Sputnik.
The firm is run by Mindia Gavasheli, editor of another production company working for Sputnik, RIA.
A filing from 2020 for the company was made by Christopher Pyburn, an RIA editor who was paid $100,000 per year according to FARA documents.
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