Donald Trump’s appeal to flyover-country voters has been that he purportedly understands their frustration and disgust with Washington’s business as usual. K Street lobbyists are the symbol of Washington rot as they push for favors, subsidies, exemptions, and other special treatment for their clients. Their paying customers include, in addition to domestic patrons, foreign governments, crooked oligarchs, fugitive speculators, and other questionable figures. Given the public disgust with such practices, the optics of Trump’s choosing an international business consultant as his campaign manager are certainly bad.
The mainstream media, in its near-hysterical campaign to destroy Trump, has latched onto Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s consulting gig with Viktor Yanukovich, Ukraine’s president until he was deposed during the Euro-Maidan Revolution. As an example, take one of the New York Times’ trademark investigative reports designed to discredit the Trump campaign. Its shrieking headline of a “secret ledger” of cash for Manafort refers to a scratched handwritten legal pad, supposedly listing moneys to be disbursed, on which his name appears. The Times also faults Manafort for consulting for Yanukovich’s “Party of the Regions” (which it admits would have been legal) and for consorting with a shady Russian oligarch, accused of skimming billions in the Ukraine gas trade.
The Times hit job is hypocritical and lacks any semblance of balance. If working for clients who are “engaged in corruption” is a moral offense, a brief Google search by the Times writers would have assembled an honor roll of corrupt foreign businesses and repressive dictatorships represented by pillars of the Democratic establishment.
“Working for corrupt foreign officials” is big business for K Street firms. Thanks to the Panama Papers, we know that the Podesta Group, with close ties to the Clinton and Obama administrations, lobbied for Russia’s largest bank, a suspected money launderer. Lobbying giant Ketchum represents Gazprom, the Russian energy behemoth that serves as an instrument of Russian foreign policy. Fugitive Ukrainian oligarch Dymtro Firtash is represented by Democratic heavyweight lawyer Lanny Davis, who accuses Trump of “inviting Putin to commit espionage” and denies all wrongdoing by Hillary. Representative John Conyers reads Kremlin propaganda into the Congressional Record, obviously at the suggestion of a Kremlin lobbyist. My regular writings on the Russia–Ukraine War have brought forth threats for defamation by reputable D.C. law firms that represent Russian state officials/oligarchs.
The brilliance of the mainstream media’s attack on small-fry Manafort is that it diverts attention from the potential granddaddy of corruption schemes. The Clinton Foundation, if there is ever a real investigation, may be shown to have eliminated the K Street middleman. By contributing directly to the Clinton machine, a foreign government or a corrupt foreign oligarch can gain access directly to the heart of government. Just think of the possibilities: Today the State Department, tomorrow the presidency of the United States.
Stalin used the term “diversionary” to describe those enemies who see the truth differently from him. Under the Clinton campaign, “diversion” has become the magician’s “misdirection” to draw the audience’s attention away from the wiggling rabbit in his pocket to a shiny bauble he is waving in the air. Will the voting public fall for this?
After the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine in 2014, I asked General Jim Mattis what advice he had for the struggling new Ukrainian state. I expected an answer related to military strategy, but his response surprised me: Tell Ukraine to go to K Street and hire the best lobbyist it can. Otherwise its voice will not be heard. I think this stark advice explains why Americans are fed up, and why they should be.
— Paul Roderick Gregory is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is a professor of economics at the University of Houston, a research associate at the German Institute for Economic Research, and an emeritus chair of the international advisory board of the Kiev School of Economics.