McCain’s campaign manager’s Kremlin ties

The influence of money on politics creates a national security vulnerability. Patriotically, Rick Davis of the McCain campaign has alerted us to that vulnerability; his firm Davis, Manafort has close allies of Vladimir Putin as clients, and has helped those allies try to frustrate U.S. foreign policy.

So the lobbying firm owned by John McCain’s campaign manager did (still does?) work for the Ukrainian political party that more or less works for the Kremlin.

Yes, it looks as if the Foreign Agents Registration Act needs updating. It also looks as if McCain needs a new campaign manager.

As with Mark Penn’s absurd assertion that he had “recused himself” from his firm’s union-busting work, Davis’s assertion that he had no role in lobbying for Putin’s puppet party makes no sense. It’s his firm (it’s called “Davis, Manafort”). Therefore he’s responsible, and he’s getting his cut of the take through his ownership interest even though he draws no salary.

Just to review the bidding:

Under Soviet rule, ethnic Russians were moved into eastern Ukraine. That part of the country still speaks mostly Russian rather than Ukrainian. After 1989, the Russians formed the base of what is now called the Party of Regions, devoted to tying Ukraine tightly to Russia. Ethnic Ukrainians, still a majority, tend to vote for other parties, primarily Our Ukraine, but in 2004 the sitting President (Leonid Kuchma) and Prime Minister (Victor Yanukovich) were both in the Kremlin’s camp.

That year Yanukovich ran for president against Victor Yuschenko, an ethnic Ukrainian committed to steering a separate course from Russia. Yushchenko was poisoned with dioxin and permanently disfigured, apparently by the Ukrainian secret police, which has close ties to the Russian FSB (alias KGB). Yanukovich’s attempt to steal the election was defeated only by mass street protests, known as the “Orange Revolution.” It was the policy of the U.S. government to support Ukrainian independence and democracy, which meant in effect supporting Yuschenko.

Davis, Manafort helped run the Party of Regions campaign in the 2006 elections and the 2007 elections and lobbied the U.S. Ambassador to Kiev on behalf of the Party of Regions.

Bonus scandal: Davis, Manafort also works for Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska (who is also, of course, a political ally of Putin). Deripaska is banned from entering the U.S. for lying to the FBI about his mafiya connections. In 2006, Rick Davis introduced this rich gangster and friend of tyranny to John McCain.

At some point someone is going to figure out that the role of money in U.S. politics constitutes a major national security vulnerability. It’s just too easy for our adversaries to buy influence, using companies and local rich guys as cut-outs and law firms and lobbying firms as agents. The Saudis figured this out a long time ago. The Iranians used Ahmad Chalabi as their agent of influence. If McCain wins the Presidency, Davis, Manafort is going to have enormous clout, and there’s every reason to expect that clout to be used on behalf of Davis, Manafort’s Russian clients.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com