Federal Politics

Published — August 8, 2018 Updated — Today at 9:55 pm EST

On Paul Manafort and foreign lobbying: a Q&A with the author of ‘The Torturers’ Lobby’

Paul Manafort arrives at federal court, Friday, June 15, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Center for Public Integrity’s 1992 report detailed Manafort’s early influence

Introduction

Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, has been in the news for months since Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged him and his associate Rick Gates with several alleged crimes, including fraud and working as unregistered foreign agents.

Manafort’s federal trial began this week in Alexandria, Virginia. The intense scrutiny of Manafort’s case has also renewed interest in Manafort’s appearance in a report the Center for Public Integrity published in 1992, entitled “The Torturers’ Lobby.” Among prominent publications recently citing it: Newsweek, USA Today, The Guardian and NPR.

The report detailed how major D.C. lobbying and public relations firms represented authoritarian regimes with poor human rights records, including China, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. One of the top firms paid by these foreign governments? Manafort’s firm at the time — Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly.

To help shed light on the significance of that report and the influence of foreign lobbying then and now, we contacted Pamela Brogan, the author of the “The Torturers’ Lobby,” and a former Washington journalist.

Q: Where did the idea of “The Torturers’ Lobby” report come from?

A: As an investigative reporter, I noticed from foreign lobbying registration forms that several Washington insiders, former Republican and Democratic operatives, were reaping millions in lobbying fees from representing dictators and authoritarian regimes with widely criticized human rights records. Lobbyists such as Paul Manafort and others were hired to lobby Congress for massive increases in foreign aid paid for by U.S. taxpayers. Critics argued these lobbyists were undermining a key U.S. policy — promoting human rights abroad. Other critics said the White House and Congress were ignoring the Foreign Assistance Act that barred military and economic aid to countries whose government “engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights” which is defined to include torture.



Q: How long did it take to research and investigate the report?

A: It took about eight months to complete the study because at the time the foreign lobbying reports at the Justice Department were not computerized. Hundreds of pages of documents were reviewed. It was a difficult task because the registration data was often incomplete and foreign agents missed reporting deadlines. Numerous interviews with human rights organizations, Congress and foreign agents, also were conducted for the study.

Q: Why do you think the report is getting so much recognition now?

A: The report documents that Paul Manafort has a history of representing authoritarian regimes and collecting millions of dollars in lobbying fees. Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates are facing charges by Mueller that they failed to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) as a lobbyist for the government of Ukraine and generated “tens of millions of dollars” for their work.

Q: Did the report get publicity at the time it was published? What were some of the reactions or results?

A: The report made headlines, domestically and internationally. Unfortunately, as was the case 26 years ago, the Justice Department does not seem to have a consistent policy for enforcing foreign lobbying laws. Instead, the law only comes under congressional and Justice Department scrutiny when there is a scandal.

Q: It’s obviously been a long time since the report came out. But what would you say were the biggest findings at the time and what should/could people take away from reading it now?

A: It’s obvious that the foreign lobbying laws need to be strengthened and the Justice Departments needs a consistent enforcement strategy. The American people should know who, how, and how much money individuals are receiving to represent the interests of foreign governments, especially regimes whose priorities are at odds with U.S. policies and might be working to undermine our national security and democracy.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share about your experience covering lobbying or Manafort’s work?

A: The media needs to follow the money and report on the activities of foreign and domestic lobbyists. The American people need to know who is a hired gun for a foreign government or domestic interests. This means that financial interests of sources quoted in articles or interviews, who might be lobbyists or foreign agents, should always be disclosed so the American people can decide whether their views are credible.

READ MORE:

Understanding the Foreign Agents Registration Act

How a sanctioned Russian bank wooed Washington

Read more in Federal Politics

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SOUTH JERSEYTed SiroisMark SullivanTom LarkinAnonymous Recent comment authors
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Mark Sullivan
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Mark Sullivan

Trump needs to conduct these activities because the entire MSM media, excluding Fox, is campaigning against him 24/7/365.

Didn’t Monica’s boyfriend’s wife and various criminal enterprises outspend Trump by almost 2-1?

CapitalistRoader
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CapitalistRoader

Why wouldn’t he get an early start on fund raising? Hillary outspent him two-to-one in 2016. The Dem’s are the party of big money. The President knows this and is attempting to get a jump on it. Of course the Dem candidate will outspend him in 2020 so it’s only rational that he starts fund raising now.

George Young
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George Young

Oh brother. We just 8 years of the Campaigner – in – Chief. Where was this journalistic rectal thermometer then. Just another article about 2000 words too long that merely takes another slap at Trump for something he far from initiated.

j stevenson
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j stevenson

The big difference between Trump and all the rest is his refusing to accept funds from lobbyists, so they don’t have the White House access they are used to. These are the donors who buy the presidency and are as pixxed off that he won the election as are the media and the Dems. Lobbyists have never been shut out of the WH and Trump has told them he is not for sale.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Trump needs to be impeached and tossed in prison. Then have the key thrown away so he will never be free. Then he can see how it feels not to have freedom.

Mark Sullivan
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Mark Sullivan

Thank you for the usual insightful leftist low IQ Snowflake response.

barney
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hes not imprisoning them hes sending them back to their country chill tf out

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

WHY DONT YOU HAVE FREEDOM?

Tom Larkin
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Tom Larkin

First, something positive. I was happy to learn of empirical information in article. BUT, the article was so slanted against President Trump as to be deemed fake news (“Perhaps Trump just lied.” (Two different issues)). The article mentions that President Trump raised over $67 million, but ended 2018 with $19 million. President Trump spent over $40 million 2016 and 2017. President Trump conducted 57 political rallies. The article notes the hats and T-shirts sold, but NEVER MENTIONS THE INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF REPUBLICAN SENATORS during a mid-term election that lost the House and the number of political rallies in… Read more »

Ted Sirois
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Ted Sirois

At least Trump is getting donations from willing donors. Fresh from his first election, Obama used billions of our children’s tax dollars to save thousands of union jobs in the car industry and bailed out the banks and many Wall Street businesses. This secured his source of reelection funds for his reelection four years later.

South Jersey
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South Jersey

TRUMP 2020; IS AN AMAZINGLY SMART MAN! VERY ORIGINAL & CREATIVE. I AM HAPPY TO HAVE HIS AS POTUS.

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

THIS ARTICLE WAS OBVIOUSLY WRITTEN BY, A TRUMP-HATE-GROUP. THAT FEELS; IT IS NOT NORMAL TO BE SUCCESSFUL WITH YOUR OWN BRAND NAME. WHEN, IF FACT, IT IS NORMAL! >>>>> THIS IS >>> FAKE NEWS!!! <<<< ie: A PACK-OF-LIES; SPUN INTO; DEFAMATION OF CHARACTER. FOR A SINISTER-AGENDA OF; FASCIST DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST, COUP D'ETAT

David
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David

Are you on some kind of drugs? Writing in caps makes me think that you are grumpy old fart or a uneducated hillbilly.