Back in late March, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign made waves in the media with the hiring of Paul Manafort as a key campaign adviser. While dominating press coverage has been a staple of the Trump campaign’s success, what was really unique about this instance was that Paul Manafort, a Washington insider for decades and a textbook GOP Establishment member, had joined what had previously been a haphazardly run populist campaign by someone with absolutely no political experience. At that point in the primary Trump had a 286 delegate lead over Ted Cruz with his 754 to Cruz’s 468, with Manafort having been brought in primarily with the goal to ensure the delegates Trump had amassed would remain loyal on the convention floor. In the weeks leading up to Manafort’s hiring there had been whispers in the press that leaders among the Republican Party were planning to thwart Trump at the convention in Cleveland by flipping numerous delegates originally awarded to Trump through various methods ranging from forcing a second vote on the floor to shady backroom dealings.
Manafort’s hiring marked a stark departure from Trump’s previous strategy of actively attacking the Washington elite and everything they stood for—a strategy which had worked marvels with the scores of middle class workers who continued to flock to his circus-like campaign rallies, and more importantly, the polls. If one could find a textbook example of the Washington GOP Establishment, Manafort would certainly fit the bill. In 1976 he was a key delegate manager with Gerald Ford’s campaign, and he also produced the Republican Conventions of 1984 with Reagan and 1996 with Bob Dole. More importantly, he has gained a reputation with his lobbying firms Black, Manafort, Stone, & Kelly and later Davis, Manafort, & Freedman of representing and rehabilitating the image of anyone willing to pay the right amount, no matter how brutal or controversial their past. While he was originally hired for the primary purpose of reining in delegates and assuring their allegiances, he has since ruthlessly risen to the top of Trump’s campaign, a development that should come as no surprise once one becomes familiar with Manafort’s intriguing and controversial past.
After his political education with the campaigns of Ford and Reagan, Manafort jumped into lobbying in 1985 with the first of two lobbying firms with his name on it, Black, Manafort, Stone, & Kelly. The Stone in that name is no other than Roger Stone, the still prominent Republican strategist known for underhanded tactics and longtime friend of Manafort and Trump. Stone would later say of the now defunct firm, “Black, Manafort, Stone, and Kelly, lined up most of the dictators of the world we could find. … Dictators are in the eye of the beholder.” The amount of work Paul Manafort has done on the behalf of international dictators is long and varied, especially for someone who’s, you know, managing the campaign of a candidate for “the leader of the free world.”
In 1985 Manafort’s firm agreed to work for Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos to the tune of $1 million in return for shaping up his image in front of the US media and government ahead of the upcoming Philippine election. Marcos ruled as the president of the Philippines for twenty one years and gained a reputation as a brutal and corrupt leader, with martial law being the law of the land from 1972 until 1981. According to Filipino news outlets, Marcos’ reign of martial law would result in 3,257 extra-judicial killings, 35,000 torture victims, and 70,000 incarcerations. In addition to his totalitarian mean streak, Marcos and his wife Imelda made a habit of amassing money in various illegal methods. The Philippine supreme court has estimated that the Marcos family accumulated around $10 billion while in office, despite the fact that his official yearly salary never exceeded $13,500. In the end Marcos proved too corrupt even for President Reagan to support, as he was pressured to step down amid election-fixing allegations just months after hiring Black, Manafort, Stone, and Kelly.
A further list of Manafort’s previous clients will only continue this dangerous trend of violent and corrupt world leaders: Mobutu Sese Seko, former dictator of Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Jonas Savimbi, a guerilla fighter in the Angolan Civil War, and Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian Ukrainian president and Putin ally who was recently unseated during the 2014 uprisings in Ukraine. The Guardian has estimated that Seko managed to embezzle $5 billion from the people of the Congo during his thirty-two year reign, and if you click the link provided above you’ll notice Manafort’s other buddy Marcos listed among notoriously corrupt world leaders. Meanwhile, Savimbi signed a $600,000 contract with Manafort’s firm to boost him in his fight against the Marxist Angolan government. Interestingly enough, Manafort managed to convince the American government to support Savimbi’s rebellion for two additional years even after the Soviets had ended support for the Angolan government. As a result, whenever peace talks in Angola showed any indications of progress, Manafort managed to produce a new shipment of arms for Savimbi and his guerilla fighters, prolonging a brutal civil war all in the name of a fatter paycheck for himself.
But this is the man Paul Manafort is. The list of questionable characters, shady lawsuits, and international scandals he has been involved in would require at minimum a few day’s worth of non-stop reading, and we here at Paste Magazine realize that our readers have actual lives outside of the internet. What’s really amazing is that all of this information is readily available online if one only makes the arduous effort to enter “Paul Manafort” into a Google search. This is a man whose firm was prominently featured in the report “The Torturer’s Lobby,” by the Center for Public Integrity, and whose name appears no fewer than forty times in the investigation. This is a man who is quoted in a federal hearing as arguing, “You might call it influence-peddling. I call it lobbying,” while attempting to defend himself during a federal investigation into a $43 million scam involving the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Even more shocking is Manafort has been the subject of almost no scrutiny from the mainstream US media. On the contrary, his hiring was seen as a victory for Trump, that a man so successful and embedded in the GOP establishment would be willing to work for an “outsider” such as Trump. In reality, it shouldn’t be the least bit surprising that a man known for his willingness to work with anyone, no matter how brutal and corrupt, would decide to work for Donald Trump, known for his failure to pay bills, his praise of questionable world leaders such as Saddam Hussein and Vladimir Putin, and general fascist tendencies such as banning numerous journalists from events and certain religions from our nation. With the recent DNC hack being linked to Russia, and with Russia becoming increasingly more aggressive towards US positions in Syria, this is a man whose Russian ties should at a minimum raise a few alarm flags. Ultimately the real concerning issue is that no one seems to know, or even worse, care, just exactly what Paul Manafort’s end game is.