Article By: Jonah Schweitzer
Paul Manafort, age 69, is currently serving a 7 1⁄2 year prison sentence on felony charges of fraud, and conspiracy. Manafort is most well known for his role as Donald Trump’s campaign chairman during the 2016 presidential election, but he’s had a decades-long career colored by countless deaths, and ties to brutal dictatorships.
In 1980, Manafort co-founded the lobbying group, Black, Manafort, and Stone. Alongside Roger Stone, another former Trump Campaign official currently under indictment, and Charles Black. In 1984, with the addition of Peter Kelly, the group became known as Black, Manafort, Stone, and Kelly.
Black, Manafort, Stone, and Kelly is frequently, colloquially, referred to as the “Torturers’ Lobby.” The name stems from their frequent work with dictators responsible for flagrant human rights abuses.
The firm’s first major client was the, then, president of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos. Amnesty International estimates that under Marcos’ rule, over 34,000 people were tortured and that 3,240 of his political opponents were killed.
Marcos hired Manafort’s lobbying firm for $950,000 a year.
The firm’s role was to work currying support from the Reagan administration. Having previously served as part of Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign, Manafort was uniquely equipped for the task.
Philippine investigators searching through records relating to the Marcos regime found evidence that $57 million had been marked as a donation to Reagan’s re-election campaign. Campaign donation laws in the United States do not allow for foreign donors, and the Reagan campaign never indicated any donations of this kind. Some have speculated that Manafort either pocketed the money, or laundered it into the Reagan campaign. He vehemently denies these allegations.
In 1986, Manafort’s lobbying group was hired by Jonas Savimbi, the leader of the Angolan rebel group, UNITA. Under Savimbi’s rule, UNITA tortured prisoners, utilized child soldiers, and abducted civilians for use as slaves.
Savimbi, an ex-Maoist turned anti-Communist, was hoping to receive support from the United States. Something that would have been nearly impossible without the firm’s help.
Manafort took the war criminal to Washington D.C., where he presented Savimbi as a hero battling against the spread of communism. This tactic proved to be successful, and UNITA was rewarded with funding from the United States.
In the late 1980s, Angola seemed to be on the verge of peace talks, the 15-year civil war appeared to be slowing. This changed when Manafort’s lobbying group convinced Congress to provide Savimbi with more weaponry. Former senator, Bill Bradley, said, “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.”
Black, Manafort, Stone, and Kelly were paid $600,000 yearly for their services.
In 1996, Black, Manafort, Stone, and Kelly was sold to another lobbying firm, and Manafort head out on his own. In 2006, Manafort began working as an image consultant for Viktor Yanukovych, a Ukrainian politician.
After becoming Ukraine’s prime minister through an election wrought with accusations of fraud, Yanukovych militarized the country’s police force and began to use them as a private army. Efforts to depose him began shortly after. In brutal crackdowns by Yanukovych’s police, forced hundreds of protesters were injured, dozens were killed.
Leaked texts sent between Manafort’s daughters explicitly blame him for these deaths. “Sent to 19178211113 at: 2015-03-31 20:44:02 He has no moral or legal compass
Received from 19178211113 at: 2015-03-31 20:44:15 You know he has killed people in Ukraine? Knowingly
Sent to 19178211113 at: 2015-03-31 20:45:26 What?!
Sent to 19178211113 at: 2015-03-31 20:45:30 No
Sent to 19178211113 at: 2015-03-31 20:45:48 Yup
Sent to 19178211113 at: 2015-03-31 20:46:13 Remember when there were all those deaths taking place? A while back. About a year ago
Sent to 19178211113 at: 2015-03-31 20:46:17 Revolts and what not
Sent to 19178211113 at: 2015-03-31 20:46:34 Do you know whose strategy that was to cause that
Received from 19178211113 at: 2015-03-31 20:46:42 To send those people out and get them slaughtered.
Received from 19178211113 at: 2015-03-31 20:46:53 As a tactic to outrage the world and get focus on Ukraine. “
Sent to 19178211113 at: 2015-03-31 20:47:32 Don’t fool yourself. That money we have is blood money
Between 2007, and 2012, Paul Manafort was paid $12.7 million by Yanukovych’s party.
When Manafort appeared in court to receive his first sentence, of 47 months, he was in a wheelchair. His lawyers say that he has gout and high blood pressure. They also noted that Manafort suffers from anxiety, panic attacks, and claustrophobia.
The recommended sentence for Manafort’s fraud charge was between 19, and 24 years. Judge T.S. Ellis sighted Manafort’s, “otherwise blameless life” in explaining his decision to be lenient.
Photo Credit: thehill.com