According to the Daily Beast, during his career Paul Manafort and his firm- Black, Manafort, Stone, and Kelly (Stone referring to Roger Stone)- earned a fortune by "fronting for a group of clients once referred to as the 'torturers’ lobby.'"
Manafort’s firm had close ties to Reagan and George H.W. Bush administration and other top Republicans on Capitol Hill. The group made their millions by representing dictators, guerilla groups, and despots, including one who oversaw state-sanctioned rape. One of their clients, Jonas Savimbi, led an anti-communist guerilla army in Angola. He hired Manafort’s firm to help him get financial support from the U.S. for his army, UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola). Manafort delivered after Savimbi paid $600,000.
“What the firm achieved was quickly dubbed ‘Savimbi chic,’” reported Time magazine in 1986. “Doors swung open all over town for the guerrilla leader, who was dapperly attired in a Nehru suit and ferried about in a stretch limousine.”
The lobbying worked. Then-Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole convinced the State Department to send weapons to UNITA.
The lobbying was lucrative for both parties. First, “It greatly helped repackage Savimbi as a valiant anti-communist ‘freedom fighter,’” according to Nairobi’s The Daily Nation. It was also so profitable for the lobbying firm that they did not want the freedom fight to stop. According to Spy Magazine, the firm’s “hawkish congressional lobbying for more military aid” may have held off a cease fire from coming sooner.
“Clearly, Savimbi wanted peace negotiations for a longer time than Black, Manafort wanted negotiations,” said one conservative Hill aide.
Senator Bill Bradley says in his memoir that the lobbying team lengthened the war. “I thought we were making a colossal blunder in Angola,” he wrote. “I had no sense that Jonas Savimbi, our client guerilla warrior, was any more committed to democracy than was the country’s dictatorial leftist leadership. When Gorbachev pulled the plug on Soviet aid to the Angolan government, we had absolutely no reason to persist in aiding Savimbi. But by then he had hired an effective Washington lobbying firm, which successfully obtained further funding.”
The delayed peace process meant delayed violence. And Savimbi’s army was very violent.
“Indiscriminate killings, mutilation of limbs or ears, and beatings were used by rebels to punish suspected government sympathizers or as a warning against betraying UNITA,” reads a Human Rights Watch report. “UNITA continued to forcibly recruit men and teenage boys to fight. Girls were held in sexual slavery and used as a source of forced labor.”
In a 1992 report, the Center for Public Integrity listed the firm as one of the lobbying firms to have profited the most from doing business with foreign powers that violated human rights. The firm made $3.3 million from 1991 to 1992. The Center for Public Integrity named them “the torturers’ lobby.”
Another person who benefitted from Manafort’s lobbying was the dictator of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), Mobutu Sese Seko. The Guardian described him as “one of Africa’s most flamboyantly corrupt leaders.”
“Quantitatively, I think Zaire has the worst human rights record in Africa,” one UN official said in 1997. “In terms of social and economic rights and the number of state actors violating those rights, it’s massive. And the bulk of human rights violations in this country never will be known. It’s a black hole.”
Manafort’s firm helped the Zaire dictator recover from his PR issues for $1 million a year.
Charlie Black, a Manafort Partner, said that they “never (1981-present) accepted a foreign client without informally clearing with the State Department that our scope of work is in U.S. interests.”
“In the case of Mobutu, he told US he would have democratic elections for a parliament. US State asked us to organize those elections,” Black said. “We did. He did not like the results and fired us.”
Manafort also worked with Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who embezzled between $5 billion and $10 billion from his people.
Another Dictator, Sani Abacha of Nigeria, hired another one of Manafort’s firms- Davis, Manafort & Freedman- in 1998 as a part of “an aggressive public relations and lobbying campaign to persuade Americans that he was the leader of a progressive emerging democracy,” according to The New York Times.
Manafort later worked with Putinite Viktor Yanukovych in 2010, who was later kicked out of office after accusations of undermining freedom of the press and trying to supress the opposing political parties.
The list goes on. Manafort’s firm also made $450,000 a year from the Somalian dictatorship of Siad Barre, which has now been deposed.
Paul Manafort has worked with a long list of unsavory clients, and now he can count President Trump among them.