I had a piece in Fusion yesterday about Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign advisor, co-authored with the wonderful Adam Weinstein. The main thrust of the story is captured in the headline: “How Trump aide Paul Manafort got ridiculously wealthy while aiding a Ukrainian strongman.”
Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that Ukraine’s newly formed anti-corruption bureau has raised questions about alleged under-the-table cash payments of $12.7 million to Manafort from Ukrainian government clients, dating back to the days when he worked on behalf of President Viktor Yanukovych. The latter took off for Russian in 2014, when the country was on the verge of civil war and he had ordered troops to gun down hundreds of protestors. Yanukovych was one of a number of Manafort’s foreign clients over the years, i.e. Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, who had to hastily depart power before they ended up being paraded through the streets hoisted upon pitchforks.
Manafort never registered as a foreign lobbyist — and our story details how he probably evaded doing so, even though he advocated strongly for the strongman’s commitment to democracy, transparency and other heartwarming values. We also looked at how Manafort — who refused comment on our report but disputed the Times’ story — compiled quite an extraordinary real estate portfolio (including a property at Trump Towers — during precisely the time period covered by the Times’ alleged Ukrainian cash payments to him, between 2007 and 2012.
Little is know about exactly what Manafort did for Yanukovych because he refused to describe it. and because he never disclosed his activities under lobbying laws for foreign journalists. Much of what is known emerged only after Yanukovych fled Ukraine and divers retrieved thousands of internal government documents that had been hastily thrown into a lake at his presidential retreat. Additional paperwork was found tossed inside a Ukrainian prosecutor’s sauna. The documents were dried and assembled by local journalists.
Meanwhile, Fusion found a number of curious Hollywood film investments by Manafort during roughly the same period he was raking in cash from his Ukrainian clients. For example, he co-produced the 2005 independent film “The Dying Gaul,” which its liberal director/writer, Craig Lucas, dedicated to “Angels in America” writer Tony Kushner. A conservative movie-review website described the film as a “misanthropic humanist worldview about a homosexual and adulterous affair in Hollywood that leads to murder and death.”
George VanBuskirk, the film’s lead producer, said that Manafort’s daughter Jessica, who resides in an estate in Malibu, wanted to build a career in film and “that was his primary interest in the entertainment business.” Alas, the film didn’t fare well at the box office: Estimated to have cost $4 million to produce, it earned just over $342,000 at box offices.
Tragically, Jess Manafort’s career never took off either. Though her IMDB profile describes her as a film producer, director and writer she thus far has been snubbed by Hollywood. Her debut feature film — released in 2007 when she was 25 years old and her father was hard at work turning the street thug and blockhead Yanukovych into Ukraine’s next president — was called “Remember the Daze” and offered “a glimpse into the teenage wasteland of suburbia…and the teenagers who make their way through the last day of high school.”
It received generally harsh reviews at the IMDB site. Here are excerpts from one commenter’s take:
“I went to NYU myself and the majority of the students don’t have any idea what they’re doing, nor are they there for the right reasons. They’re just rich kids on their parent’s dime who woke up one morning and thought making movies would be cool…There’s no point to any of the events that transpire here. There’s no story arc to be found, no character development for any of the 20+ (mostly stereotypical) characters. It’s just a mix mash of random happenings thrown together… What I’d like to know is how she got the budget to make this film in the first place based on her soulless script.”
Well, we know her daddy provided her with the budget for this stoner, alt-lifestyle flop. And given the timing of its release, one has to wonder if Jess’s less than stellar Hollywood career wasn’t indirectly funded by Manafort’s work for Yanukovych and his other Eastern European oligarchic clients.
To read the full Fusion story, click here.