I had a story in Politico yesterday about the indictment of Paul Manafort and the pathetic state of laws for foreign lobbyists in Washington. The story got good play and quite a bit of people commented about it on Facebook and Twitter. That’s very helpful, and so is the fact that Politico cut parts of the story because now I’m going to take the outtakes — and they were good, just off topic — plus the comments plus part of the Politico story and some things I just thought of now and turn it all into a killer post on Russiagate.
You can read about Manafort anywhere and the Politico story is here, but I basically described all the ways that foreign lobbyists can evade the rules under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA. Probably the most interesting revelation in the story was contained in this paragraph:
And here’s another trick that’s even better, and it’s not just used by Russia. Let’s say a government wants a lobbyist or someone else to do some work for them in Washington. Maybe it’s lobbying and maybe it’s not exactly lobbying. The country simply has a major American law firm hire the lobbyist or PR executive, and now you’re not lobbying for Russia, you’re providing litigation support for a certified American law firm. And it’s 100 percent legal and outside the purview of the ever more meaningless FARA statute.
My editors at Politico, as noted, cut most of my thoughts about Robert Mueller’s Russiagate investigation. That was wise because they weren’t really relevant to the story. Furthermore, I hadn’t — and still haven’t — read almost anything about yesterday’s indictments. It seems that a guy whose name sounds like George Stephanopoulos is in a lot of hot water and that sounds like a good thing tho I wish Stephanopoulos was too, because he’s a total creep.
As far as Mueller’s investigation — and let me state now that I don’t share official DC’s love of this guy — I guess it will pick up steam as people like Manafort flip to try to save themselves. In any case, here’s what I wrote yesterday, lightly edited, that was cut and which is definitely worth reading:
Jeffrey Sommers commented on this on a post of Doug Henwood’s that generously praised my Politico story. He noted interesting parallels with Vladimir Putin selectively going after the oligarch Mikhail Khordokovsky, who I’m no fan of for reasons too complicated to go into here. Putin, Sommers wrote, “jailed him for engaging in the routine tax evasion practiced by all oligarchs. I shed zero tears for the guy, but the entire class of them should have received the same fate. The Manafort case represents the same. The post-Soviet space has seen an unending stream of well-connected US carpet-bagger lobbyists engaging in the same type of activities for which Manafort is going down for. Glad the guy is going down, but the ‘ship’ of fellow carpet-baggers going down should be Titanic-sized in scope.”