This weekend I was engaged in research. As is my habit, I take a break every now and then to check email, Daily Kos and other sites I’m in the habit of visiting.
While checking in with Big Orange, I came across a post on the front page that caused me to make a change in my research plan. It was "McCain's Campaign Led by Tainted Lobbyists".
That McCain is dependent upon lobbyists for his career, campaign and myth is not a surprise. Anybody who digs into McCain’s record quickly realizes that it is one curveball of deception after another.
In the ad, MoveOn focused on McCain’s brain, lobbyist Charlie Black. Specifically the ad focused on Black’s work as a lobbyist for despots in Angola, Zaire and the Philippines back in the 1980s.
That got my attention. Jack Abramoff was also a lobbyist for some of these same despots back in the 1980s.
And yes, Charlie Black and Jack Abramoff are linked.
They would have worked together.
And Charlie is far worse than Jack.
Join me on the jump...
Charlie Black is a long time GOP operative. He has been in the game for years.
He is the prototype of the modern Washington lobbyist. He has been trading on his connections for profit and power for more than thirty years. He is the model for the K Street Project. His record is amazing and I’ve only scratched the surface.
So far in this cycle he has gotten away with being a "longtime GOP consultant" or some other bland set of words designed to hide his role in creating the culture of corruption destroying our nation and our government.
He should be in jail. Instead, he is running John McCain’s run to make Washington safe for the corrupt, incompetent and greedy (aka: a McCain Presidency).
Listen, I have spent a lot of time over the last decade digging into Jack Abramoff and his impact on Washington’s Culture of Corruption. I’ve often posted diaries about my research.
Jack was bad, but Charlie Black is in a league of his own. The guy is a serious prick.
Much of the Abramoff Scandal can be understood by going back to the Eighties. Every aspect of the scandal had its roots in the people and politics of the years between 1975 and 1990. Jack came to Washington as a kid in 1981 after he helped Reagan take Massachusetts by delivering an overwhelming number of absentee ballots with his best friend, Grover Norquist.
Jack and Grover quickly became young turks in the politics and scandals of the day. Their role models were the slightly older young turks who were already cashing in on the "Reagan Revolution". Greed and One-Party Rule were the motivators for Grover, Jack and the punks they emulated.
Charlie Black was one of those punks.
In 1978, he was the Political Director for the RNC. That was the year when the right first lunched the politics of personal destruction as a key element of the permanent campaign. It was the year that Richard Vigueri and other founders of the modern conservative movement took their new type of politics out for a test drive.
The game plan was field tested in New Hampshire and Iowa in 1978. In 2001, the Cook Report highlighted the importance of 1978 to the angry Right-wing warriors (emphasis added):
When [Iowa Senator Dick] Clark came up for re-election in 1978, Roger Jepsen, then the state's conservative Republican lieutenant governor, challenged him in a hard-edged race that focused on abortion rights and Clark's support for a treaty "giving away" the Panama Canal. Jepsen beat Clark, 51 percent to 48 percent, in one of two key "New Right" Senate victories that year. The other Republican victory was in New Hampshire, where Gordon Humphrey defeated Democrat Thomas McIntyre. These two New Right wins served as a model for conservative challengers nationwide. They helped spur the conservative sweep of 1980 and the introduction of the abortion issue into American electoral politics.
Charlie Black was one of those angry warriors. A flock of young College Republicans became the foot soldiers of the cause. Two students in Massachusetts name Abramoff and Norquist joined the effort. Black would have been a role model.
A Washington Post story from April 7, 1985, "Partners in Political PR Firm Typify Republican New Breed" was rich in details about Black and his gang as they created the prototype of the modern Republican grifter:
On the day after President Reagan defeated Walter F. Mondale, H. Lee Atwater was a rich man.
The deputy campaign manager of the Reagan-Bush '84 Committee became a full partner in the political consulting arm of Black, Manafort and Stone, a firm that exemplifies a key element of the vitality of the Republican Party: the potential for young tough, savvy political operatives to move into the political market and make big bucks.
In just five years, Black, Manafort and Stone -- and now Atwater -- has become a major new presence in the capital, specializing in connections, influence and hardball politics. It combines a political client list of influential elected officials with a lobbying clientele of corporations, foreign governments and trade associations.
Atwater and his colleagues represent the cream of Republican inside operatives. Charlie Black was a senior adviser to the Reagan '84 campaign and the campaign strategist for Sens. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and Phil Gramm (R-Tex.). Paul Manafort was the political director of the GOP convention in Dallas. Roger Stone was Northeast coordinator for Reagan-Bush.
Candidates are lining up to buy the firm's campaign services, and the list of lobbying clients is growing steadily.
The list includes: the investment banking firm of Salomon Brothers, which last year paid $135,000 to Black, Manafort and Stone; Kaman Aerospace, which laid out $255,000; the Dominican Republic, which signed on at $69,788 a quarter, and Rupert Murdoch's Australia-based The News Corp. Ltd., which is paying $180,000 a year for what the firm describes as an "activity limited to internal conferences and phone calls with client." [snip]
All between the ages of 32 and 36, Black, Manafort, Stone and Atwater were adolescents and college students in the 1960s and early 1970s, when the civil rights movement and opposition to the Vietnam war animated many of the nation's youth. [snip]
In the years that followed, these young men threw themselves into the trench warfare of the College Republicans and Young Republicans In 1977, at 25, Stone won the presidency of the Young Republicans in a campaign managed by Manafort.
Four years earlier, Atwater managed the successful campaign of Karl Rove to be president of the College Republicans, defeating John T. (Terry) Dolan, whose drive was run by Stone, Manafort and Black. Black and Stone were the founders of the National Conservative Political Action Committee in 1975, with Dolan.
At the same time they began to move up the ladder of political campaigns, working variously for Helms, Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), James Buckley, who was then a senator from New York, Richard M. Nixon, the Republican National Committee and, ultimately, Ronald Reagan. [snip]
The firm was formed out of political upheaval in the 1980 campaign. Immediately after the New Hampshire primary, Reagan fired his top staff, including Black, his field director. Black then founded the firm and Manafort and Stone joined, continuing work for the campaign as consultants. [snip]
One of the key talents they bring to a campaign is a killer instinct for what is known in the trade as "driving up the opposition's negatives." [snip]
In 1978, this translated into the Atwater-designed destruction of Charles D. (Pug) Ravenel, the Democratic nominee challenging Thurmond. [snip]
Similarly Black, who served as campaign strategist for Gramm's successful fight for a Texas Senate seat against Democrat Lloyd Doggett in the recent election, recalled:
"Doggett got the endorsement of the big gay PAC in San Antonio. That wasn't unusual, but then we got onto the fact that the gays had a male strip show at some bar and Doggett takes that money. That became a matter of his judgment, so we rolled it out there."
So, that tells us a few things about the ethics of Charlie Black and the role model he provided for young men like Grover Norquist and Jack Abramoff:
- Anything goes if it helps you "win" and dirty tricks are to be celebrated.
- Trading on your political connections to make money is not only a Republican virtue, it is the ultimate goal of a life in politics.
- The people you meet when you’re coming up will be your network for life.
Charlie Black has had a major role in shaping the modern Republican Party. He helped to create the idea of a permanent lobbyist/consultant class that was partisan, greedy and immoral.
Black’s long-time pal and partner was Roger Stone. A June 16, 1989 WP profile of Stone explain how Roger and Charlie became a team:
After serving as Ronald Reagan's "youth director" in 1976, he [Stone] became close to conservative fund-raiser Richard Viguerie. His wife was working for Viguerie at the time.
With his friends Terry Dolan and Charlie Black, Stone formed the National Conservative Political Action Committee, serving as its treasurer. In 1977, he ran for national president of the Young Republicans. Black managed his campaign.
A popular, soft-spoken man, Black is widely thought to be Stone's protector, the man who helped transform him from political pariah to powerful New Right activist. "Somebody could say I was looking after him," Black now says, "But Roger and I are peers. I've never thought of myself as an older brother."
The article also mentioned some details about their client base:
Much of Stone's success, observers say, is tied in with the success of Black Manafort Stone & Kelly. BMS&K handles clients such as a group of businessmen closely tied to former Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos (the firm stopped working for them when Reagan asked Marcos to resign), Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, the government of Nigeria, Kamen Aerospace and Salomon Bros. Inc.
Now Jack Abramoff and Jonas Savimbi were tight. In the late 1980s Jack helped him in his role as a lobbyist for the Apartheid’s secret police in South Africa. In the early 1980s he worked with Savimbi in his role as the head of Citizens for America, a fake grassroots lobbying effort run out of the basement of Reagan’s White House.
Founding Fakers a 2003 article in The New Republic has a good summation of the link between Jack Abramoff’s work for Savimbi and the work of Charlie Black.
The right-wing revolutionary impulse begins with the Reagan Doctrine, and the Reagan Doctrine begins, by some accounts, with an adventurer named Jack Wheeler. [snip]
He pointed to Afghanistan, Nicaragua, and Angola. "I realized that these [conflicts] were not isolated. This was a worldwide rejection of Soviet imperialism. The tables had turned." Wheeler booked a ticket to Washington, where he visited his friend, presidential speechwriter Dana Rohrabacher. "Dana told me that I had to go out there to study these people fighting the Soviets." So, funded by a grant from the libertarian Reason Foundation, Wheeler set off to visit anti-communist insurrections.
After six months among the Nicaraguan Contras, Afghan mujahedin, and African rebels, he landed at Washington's National Airport, where Rohrabacher greeted him. "He drove me straight to the [Old Executive Office Building]. I had been sending him back photos, which I hadn't seen myself at this point. He took me to a room, where there was a slide carousel," as well as speechwriters, officials from the CIA, and Constantine Menges and Paula Dobriansky of the National Security Council. Wheeler began to tell stories of the global phenomenon he had just witnessed. As one White House official told Sidney Blumenthal, then a reporter with The Washington Post, "[Wheeler] took random struggles and crystallized the concept that they were part of the same historical movement." Soon after, Reagan's speeches were filled with references to "freedom fighters." [snip]
To turn the Reagan Doctrine from theory to practice, Wheeler set about creating the antithesis of the Communist International, a broad coalition of anti-Marxist insurgents to be known as the Democratic International. And, in 1985, Wheeler helped convince the conservative drugstore mogul--and defeated New York gubernatorial candidate--Lew Lehrman to finance the venture. Working with Grover Norquist and Jack Abramoff, now arguably the two most powerful Republican lobbyists in Washington, Wheeler invited anti-communist rebel leaders from Nicaragua, Laos, and Afghanistan to Jamba, Angola, the headquarters of Jonas Savimbi's National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (unita). There, Lehrman gathered his guests and had them sign a communiqué declaring "our solidarity with all freedom movements in the world and ... our commitment to cooperate to liberate our nations from the Soviet imperialists." At a rally in Jamba's stadium, Lehrman handed them framed copies of the American Declaration of Independence and replica Mount Vernon bowls.
There was a reason the meeting took place in Jamba: Savimbi had become the poster child for this new breed of freedom fighter. Like Chalabi, he had a superb understanding of the conservative movement and made frequent trips to Washington to cultivate its activists. Take the itinerary for a 1986 visit: In one week, he attended a seminar at the American Enterprise Institute, hosted by Jeanne Kirkpatrick; a reception thrown by the Heritage Foundation; and another confab at Freedom House. This strategy wasn't just the product of Savimbi's savvy. He had lots of help. Unita paid a $600,000-per-year retainer to the Republican lobbying firm Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly. Savimbi's allies in South Africa's apartheid government donated consulting work by Reagan's 1980 campaign manager, Stuart Spencer, and a cast of ideologues happily volunteered their services. Norquist became economic adviser. According to Nina J. Easton's book Gang of Five: Leaders at the Center of the Conservative Crusade, this entailed ghostwriting pro-capitalist manifestos for The Wall Street Journal op-ed page. Savimbi's byline hovered over text proclaiming, "I believe that in Angola the farmer must be exempt from all taxes. The state cannot claim the produce of a farmer's hard work. This would be theft."
There are a lot of details in the record about Abramoff’s work for Angola. In the aftermath of the meeting in Jamba another one of the shadow group connected to Abramoff was formed. This one was called "Democratic International". Articles connect Jack to the lobbying effort in DC and an office that was set up. I’ve always suspected that it was housed in a DC lobbying firm. I’ve always suspected that it was Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly and that Abramoff worked there—perhaps in the coming months that will be proven.
What is proven is that Charlie Black and Jack Abramoff were working for the same client at the same time and that, that client was a murderous butcher named Jonas Savimbi.
Over the years, Charlie Black has had many clients. And he has used those connections time and time again to enrich himself.
1986 was a bad year for the GOP and Black. All of his clients lost. And yet, he still landed on his feet as Jack Kemp’s campaign manager for his 1988 run at the White House. In December of 1986, the Washington Post profiled Charlie Black as a "Hard-Hitting 'Spin Doctor'":
None of Black's clients came even close to winning Nov. 4. Former Tennessee governor Winfield Dunn lost a comeback bid by 8 percent; former Vermont governor Richard Snelling failed to unseat Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) by an embarrassing 29 percent; Hawkins lost by 10 percent.
But in this, the age of the permanent campaign, Black, one of the Republican Party's premier political tacticians, won't be short of work. "Everyone knows '86 wasn't a good year for Republicans," explained one GOP consultant. "Nobody blames Charlie for what happened to his candidates."
Today, just one month after his worst Election Day as a consultant, Black is to assume leadership of the presidential exploratory committee of Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.). [snip]
Politics has made Black a rich and influential figure during the Reagan presidency. The political consulting company he founded in 1980 with two other young political operatives, Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, has expanded into a lobbying firm and ad placement agency that employs 49 people. Partners in the firm earned $ 450,000 each last year, according to one report that Black asserts was exaggerated.
He is a tall, slender, soft-spoken southerner, conservative in philosophy, manner and dress. This day, like almost every other day, he wears a white shirt and nondescript dark suit and tie. His dark brown hair is close-cropped. On the street, he could easily be mistaken for a prosperous small town banker or lawyer.
Black's roots are in the right wing of his party. He has been deeply involved in politics and business with some of his party's most controversial groups, campaigns and personalities. Yet Black, unlike some of his clients and business partners, has made surprisingly few enemies along the way.
One business partner, Stone, who will also have a key role in the Kemp campaign as a "senior consultant," has been a lighting rod for criticism. In a cover story last December, The New Republic magazine called Stone "The State-of-the-Art Washington Sleazeball." Another partner, Manafort, came under fire earlier this year for representing former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos. The flamboyant rhetoric of another partner, Lee Atwater, has made him one of the most quoted political operatives in Washington.
Black, by contrast, is relatively colorless. "It's not the nature of my personality to attract a lot of attention," he said. "My job is to help my clients get publicity and present their cases and not get publicity for myself."
The irony is that few people in American politics have been associated with as many controversial campaigns or groups. A native of Wilmington, N.C., Black has been a key player in each of Helms' campaigns and worked several years on the North Carolina Republican's Senate staff.
He once was executive director of Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative student group, and was founding chairman of the National Conservative Political Action Committee, one of the New Right's most controversial groups. He was part of the management team led by John Sears that Reagan fired after the 1980 New Hampshire primary, and he accepts responsibility for a decision that had Reagan all but ignore the Iowa precinct caucuses -- a move that almost cost Reagan the GOP nomination. Yet Black, four years later, was accepted back into the Reagan fold as a senior consultant.
Black is a firm believer in the kind of hard-hitting negative television advertising that became NCPAC's trademark in the late 1970s and rose to a vicious art form in Helms' 1984 reelection campaign. "I don't see any evidence that negative advertising doesn't work," he said the night of Hawkins' defeat.
Black campaigns are typically rough-and-tumble affairs. He says he feels most comfortable with underdog candidates. His candidates play tough, sometimes bending the truth to their political advantage.
This is the guy shaping John McCain’s Campaign.
It will be dirty and nasty as long as Black has anything to do with it. By having Black on his team, McCain has once again shown a willingness to embrace the culture of corruption. By keeping Black on his team, McCain is showing a willingness to surround his campaign with lobbyist/consultants who will cash in on their connections to him just as they have cashed in on every connection over the last thirty years.
On January 17, 1989, the Washington Post ran part one of a series on THE NEW POLITICAL BOSSES. Of course Black, Atwater and the gang made the cut
The firm best known for this is Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly Public Affairs Co. All of the Republicans in the firm were active in Ronald Reagan's 1980 and 1984 presidential bids, and they have been consultants to numerous Senate candidates, including Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and Phil Gramm (R-Tex.). The firm's client list for lobbying is dominated by Fortune 500 companies, including Bethlehem Steel Corp., the Tobacco Institute, Trans World Airlines and Johnson & Johnson.
Charlie Black, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Lee Atwater have also been partners in a campaign consulting company. Two years ago, Atwater took a leave of absence from the firm to manage Bush's campaign. Around the same time, Black and Stone went to work pro bono for GOP presidential hopeful Jack Kemp. When Kemp's candidacy folded after "Super Tuesday," Atwater brought Black and Stone into the Bush campaign -- along with consultants for most of the other losing GOP candidates.
Now Atwater is slated to become chairman of the Republican National Committee, completing a circle of sorts. Two decades ago, the national political parties began to wane in influence as the consultants became the "new bosses" in a political era dominated by personalities, campaign tactics and advertising. But over time, the parties (especially the GOP) have reinvigorated themselves in part by becoming a funding base for the consultants. Now, a consultant will be running the party.
Now Kemp did not become President, but he did become Secretary of HUD under Bush the First. And—of course—Charlie cashed in on the connection. On July 3, 1989, an article in U.S. News & World Report, "Can Jack Kemp clean up the HUD mess?" connected Black to a growing scandal at HUD:
To begin with, Kemp has to scrub down a department that is suffering from the bureaucratic equivalent of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. At least $ 20 million, and perhaps as much as $100 million, has been filched by escrow agents hired to collect money from the sale of homes seized for mortgage defaults. They simply kept the money, and the home office, strapped by personnel cutbacks, never seemed to notice. Consultants with high-level connections, including former Interior Secretary James Watt and Kemp's own presidential-campaign manager, Charlie Black, have taken huge fees after arranging grants to developers for rehabilitating apartments. Political influence has been used to steer scarce federally subsidized houses to friends of Republican big shots such as Senator Alfonse D'Amato of New York. Other scandals are bubbling to the surface, including gross overcharges by builders who used federal funds to install bathtubs in housing at four times the normal cost.
No wonder McCain has so much confidence in Black, they were both players in Washington scandals at the same time: McCain with the Keating Five and Black with HUD. Cashing in on your political connections must be a bond they share.
And it is a bond they share with Jack Abramoff. Only Jack is in jail and Black and McCain are still at large.
When the Abramoff scandal broke it was clear that some Republican lobbyists were leaking stories about Jack to the press. I wouldn’t be surprise if Black was one of those lobbyists.
By removing Jack both McCain and Black removed competition in Washington. They got to create a bit of "maverick mythology" for McCain and remove a few obstacles to power. Politics among the greedy is cut-throat. McCain quickly realized that the Abramoff Scandal would take down his entire party if it was fully investigated. He quickly organized a cover-up.
McCain actively controlled the story and he put the investigation into slow motion. He ensured that the Abramoff Scandal was a not a factor in the 2004 election. Then he worked to ensured that voters would not know about how closely Abramoff, Rove and Bush worked together. Then McCain worked to actively limited the damage the Abramoff scandal had on the GOP in the 2006 election. And then he used his access to Jack’s little black book to discourage serious competition and build support for his 2008 run for the White House.
And in the process truth, honor and justice have become the victims of McCain’s ambition. An ambition that has led him to hide the most damning details of the Abramoff scandal:
* Jack’s role as a 25-year bagman for the GOP: hidden
* Jack’s close working relationship with the Bush White House: hidden
* Jack’s close working relationship with the Republican Congressional Leadership: hidden
* Jack’s role in dirty tricks and off-the-books money for the GOP: hidden
* Jack’s role in Medicare reform: hidden
* Jack’s role energy policy: hidden
This long graphic tells the story:
More details can be found in this diary.
John McCain should be forced to remove Charlie Black from ANY role in his campaign.
Anything less is tainted.
Only somebody naive enough to still support George W. Bush could believe the hype about McCain. He is not a "maverick". He only plays one on the teevee for shits and giggles. It is an act that is (like John) getting old.
Perhaps his carefully crafted hype is about to crash and burn. I hope so.
Recently his dependence on lobbyists has been causing him some problems. Five key staffers have left in recent days because of their lobbying careers (and that doesn’t even touch the fundraisers, advisors and other sycophants in his entourage). A McCain White House will only continue the Bush era of corruption.
And we must end the corruption if we are ever going to take this country back.
In a funny way, Jack Abramoff is now in a unique position to do a good deed for the Nation. He could return the "favor" from Black and McCain and drop a "dime" on them.
All Jack would have to do is reveal the connections he has with the lobbyists behind the curveball express and Dishonest John would be out of the game.
So, Jack. Call me.