DC Cooties

There have been a series of stories fed to the press this week intended to heighten concerns about Trump advisor Paul Manafort’s ties to Russian thugs (but not his numerous ties to other thugs). The NYT had a story about Manafort receiving cash payments from 2007 to 2012 (that is, well before Trump decided to run for President). And the AP has a story headlined, “AP Sources: Manafort tied to undisclosed foreign lobbying” that describes how Manafort’s partner, Rick Gates, funneled funds from a pro-Yanukovych non-profit to two DC lobbying firms.

Paragraph 10 of the story reveals that it relies on sources from the Podesta Group, one of the lobbying firms in question.

Paragraph 15 begins to explain salient information about the Podesta group: that its ties to the Clinton campaign are as close as Gates’ ties to the Trump campaign.

The founder and chairman of the Podesta Group, Tony Podesta, is the brother of longtime Democratic strategist John Podesta, who now is campaign chairman for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The head of Mercury, Vin Weber, is an influential Republican, former congressman and former special policy adviser to Mitt Romney. Weber announced earlier this month that he will not support Trump.

After being introduced to the lobbying firms, the European nonprofit paid the Podesta Group $1.13 million between June 2012 and April 2014 to lobby Congress, the White House National Security Council, the State Department and other federal agencies, according to U.S. lobbying records.

[snip]

One former Podesta employee, speaking on condition of anonymity because of a non-disclosure agreement, said Gates described the nonprofit’s role in an April, 2012 meeting as supplying a source of money that could not be traced to the Ukrainian politicians who were paying him and Manafort.

In separate interviews, three current and former Podesta employees said disagreements broke out within the firm over the arrangement, which at least one former employee considered obviously illegal. Podesta, who said the project was vetted by his firm’s counsel, said he was unaware of any such disagreements.

In other words, the headline and lead of this story should say something to the effect of, “Trump’s campaign manager’s partner funneled potentially illegal funds to Hillary’s campaign manager’s brother.”

Or more succinctly: “DC is a corrupt, incestuous cesspool.”

But it doesn’t. Instead of telling the story about the broken foreign registry system that permits elites of both parties to take funding from some unsavory characters — some we like, some we hate — the story instead spins this as a uniquely Trump and Manafort problem.

Sure. Vladimir Putin is one scary bastard. But there are a lot of scary bastards, and they’re feeding both sides of the DC pig’s trough.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

18 replies
  1. What Constitution? says:

    Wasn’t it Churchill who said “it’s the worst corrupt incestuous cesspool there is, except for all the others”? Or was that Tom DeLay?

  2. rugger9 says:

    I am more concerned with the closeness of the Trump campaign ties with Putin’s Russia identified every day. I don’t think anyone with half a brain would believe that Putin hasn’t laid a series of markers for be collected if Trump is elected POTUS (hence, my point about the KGB mole). While Manafort, et al., make a valiant effort to tie HRC’s campaign to Putin, the release of the Wikileaks material would invalidate any such leverage, since it is the terror of being found out that works the magic, not the release of the information. Unlike HRC, Trump has also placed pro-Putin positions into the RNC platform, has undermined USA commitment to NATO and gave a green light for the annexation of Ukrainian territory.

    • bevin says:

      There are dream worlds. And there are nightmare worlds. I’m not sure which sort you are living in.
      But, explain, why on earth would Putin not want Hillary Clinton to be President?
      Her record clearly shows that she is impetuous, obstinate and putty in the hands of neo-con ideologues. She may be a threat to humanity-warmongering is a very dangerous game-but she is hardly a threat to Russia which thrives on the crude and half baked bullying that she practised at the Department of State.
      Just examine the record: in 2009 Iran was close to being isolated, now it is offering Russia air bases and fighting along side Syrians-against US allies sponsored by the wahhabis behind 9/11- under Russian Air Force cover.
      China, famously detached from its alliance with the USSR by Nixon and Kissinger, is now not only taking part in regular manoeuvres with Russian forces and fleets but building high speed rail links across Eurasia- thus neutering the maritime power which has dominated world trade since the C17th.
      Even Turkey, that pillar of NATO, is turning towards the east, towards Russia, Iran and China, as Obama’s pivoting begins to turn suspicious neighbours into firm allies, on the defensive against well advertised threats.
      As to Ukraine, run by card carrying Nazis, with a record of brutal ethnic violence, and spiraling down into bankruptcy, what sort of an advertisement do you think it constitutes for the people of Hungary and other neighbours?
      Then there is Greece and the southern EU, much of which is reeling under economic policies dictated by Wall St, where austerity means buying your own team in Washington.
      Then there are the sanctions, imposed on the EU’s farmers and industrialists by Washington, which are pushing up unemployment in Europe and obstructing natural trade patterns across the continent.
      The notion that Trump is some sort of Russian candidate is a bad joke. If the Russian deep state had been planning a candidate to pin its fortunes to it sure would not have looked like Trump, and it certainly wouldn’t have behaved the way that Trump has been in the past weeks.
      Or do you think foreigners are dumb?

      • rugger9 says:

        Ad hominem attacks in the morning, smells like…..losing. You seem to be obsessed with my mental health and sobriety without any evidence to do so, which is a pretty standard way to drag down an argument when your side has nothing.
        *
        I don’t think either of you’ve ever been there in theater, but I have. I also don’t think either of you’ve served in the military, especially in the Cold War, but I have. So, you spend several paragraphs spewing Trumpian BS without the background regarding the dynamics in the area. It’s typical of your complete lack of historical understanding. As an example, Bevin, you said a couple of weeks ago that the Janissaries worked with the Crusaders to overthrow the Byzantines in the 4th crusade, but since Janissaries were personal slaves of the Ottoman Sultan, they never ever allied at any time with the Latin Crusaders. They also did not enter Europe until invited in by a Byzantine faction in the mid 1300s. Please do your homework.
        *
        So, the point about Iran working closely with Russia is something I raised on the preceding thread, how nice of you to try to claim it as your original thinking. Also, the points about the PRC cooperation with Putin’s Russia and Turkey’s turning away from the secular policies of Ataturk to fundamentalism were raised by me weeks ago.
        *
        Do you have links that the Ukrainians are “card carrying Nazis”? They might be fascists, but Nazi is a specific subclass of fascist lunatic, and until I see some sort of ethnic cleansing of Russians (so far not reported) I don’t think you can go there, yet.
        *
        I’ve pointed out much farther back about the fact that austerity never works, I’m more a Krugman supporter on macro-economics, and he regularly whacks the IMF and ECB for penny-wise pound-foolish policies. The proof is found in Kansas, which has been a libertarian paradise for quite some time, and not only is one of the worst job creators in the nation but also has a budget so far out of whack (due to tax cuts) that the Kansas Supreme Court forced the Brownback administration to fund the schools, to which the administration and Teabagger legislature promptly tried to defund and gut the court. So, when will you move to Kansas?
        *
        Your claim that HRC would be preferred by Putin is laughable on its face. Seriously, who has more to lose here? The one hiding all of his linkages to Putin is Trump, not HRC, in increasingly ridiculous ways. That’s why Trump will not release his taxes, and as I noted in the post above, why Trump has actually acted on Putin’s wish list. HRC has not. If the last several decades of HRC obsession on the RW, years of Benghazi / email hearings and assorted hit jobs by various RW vermin haven’t found anything (or even made plausible fabrications) what makes you think that Putin has any more of a hold on HRC than he would over a guy that probably owes him billions of dollars and can’t repay it? Think, man.

        *
        “Mick Savage” – Chickenhawk and RWNJ loudmouth Michael Savage would be proud of you.

        • Little Blue says:

          Rugger: The Naderite Trump-loving mokes attacking you don’t seen to bring up Trump’s wanting to take down NATO, which has been top of the Kremlin’s wish list for decades, along with dissolving the European Union.

          I know a lot of business folk who are more frightened by this than anything else that Trump’s said. They’re very aware that the past seven decades of relative peace in Western Europe is a historical anomaly made possible by NATO and reinforced by the EU. To see both institutions threatened scared the business people I know.

          But hey, it’s all good, right? Maybe a President Trump will finally make white working-class and middle-class Americans rise up and start backing Socialism. Of course, to think this is at all possible is to ignore why white Americans started leaving the Democrats beginning with the 1966 midterms (hint for whiteprogs: this was after LBJ signed the VRA/CRA and started to do what Roosevelt feared to do, which was to allow blacks to take part in the New Deal).

          • wayoutwest says:

            Another little blue Clintonite reminding us Nader voters just how badly butt-hurt they still are after all these years. It seems they would be embarrassed to show their whipping stripes from the last time someone helped to defeat their corporate Clintonite.

            The only change in our NATO policy Trump proposed was to require the Eurotrash to pay their fair share of the costs. NATO is sold as a defense against Russia bur in reality it has been used to keep these countries, especially the Germans, from killing each other and starting another WW.

            There are a lot of frightened business people seeking safety with the Clintonites, nothing frightens them more than the idea of actually having to pay for the benefits they enjoy under the status quo.

  3. jo6pac says:

    Putin this, Putin that, at lest he playing both sides. Then you look at what Amerikas citizens are being afford in the potus race I might just want Putin instead of Amerikas neo-conns from hell.

    Voting Green.

  4. PeasantParty says:

    I guess all that bankster watch on money transfers is just for us Peasants and not the connected ones. Every day we see more and more how Justice is really JustUS.

  5. Evangelista says:

    Marcy,

    I enjoyed your report of “cooties” in DC; probably more than I should have. The “intrigues” that appear to not be intrigues, the complexities of inter-relationships, the plots, counter-plots, su-plots, pseudo-plots, harlequin-plots and boffo-plots all going in circles, with everybody plotting with, and against, everyone else (and maybe even themselves)… It definitely produces comic effects and comedia effect (or should tah be ‘co-media’ effect?).

    I was trying to place the business, to give it, or the secondary players at least, a genre background. You know, set positions behind the Don ‘n Hill fracasing in the foreground…

    And then I came to your last paragraph. “Vladimir Putin”… What the hell did any if it have to do with Vladimir Putin? Where in hell did he come into it from? What part would, or could he have in the U.S. Election charade? How could he be given one? He doesn’t fit into the scenery; not even as well as Hollande, with his blatherous self-inserting.

    But Vladimir Putin as “one scary bastard”… He is not, of course; if we review the real Vladimir Putin’s ‘scariness’ component we find it all picture-plastered-up-on-billboards. The stuff of promoters, PR departments; all declarations. No scary actions. Evil for being declared ‘EVIL’ in imaging. Having been a nerd, and so having run projectors, for a time showing “horror” films to ‘tween-age’ girls, however, I had a retty good education in “scary”, the joy of being scared and how scare-enthusiasts wind up what they want to be scary. So shifting Putin into a ‘scary bastard’ mode, using the tools I had observed being used, I could conjure up a scary Putin, as a sort of hovering over, or last paragraph, presence, unrelated, but relatable…

    The Puppet-Master!

    Hovering over the puppet-theatre, manipulating the sticks-and-strings. Making the Punch and Judy, or in the U.S. Election Show, the Donald and Hillary and other party puppets jump and dance, beating, bashing and buffeting each other.

    I think you are onto something. I think you have captured the timbre of the election.

    I think, however, that we need to dress your Puppet-Master Putin up for the part you give him. I think maybe a long black-hair wig and thick beard, with maybe a pointed hat. Something like DuMaurier gave his Svengali in his “Trilby”. And, of course, the same almost hypnotic ability to manipulate his puppets, to make Divas of them both…

  6. Denis says:

    Marcy: “both sides of the DC pig’s trough”
    .
    Yeah, lest we forget, here is the YT version of Peter Schweizer’s “Clinton
    Cash.”
    .
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LYRUOd_QoM&list=RD7LYRUOd_QoM
    .
    Putin may be to some “one scary bastard,” but to some Hillary, feeding
    big-time on the neo-liberal side of the trough, is an even scarier bastard.
    She has done — and will do — more damage to the country than Putin
    could ever imagine.

  7. GKJames says:

    It’s a perennially interesting question: To what should reporters’ (and their editors’) omission of a material fact like this be ascribed? A partisan agenda? Preference for simplified scandal-mongering? Sloth? Incompetence? An understanding of their customers’ preferences?

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Nicely stated. Corruption in DC is wholly bipartisan and as common among political elites as lead in the local drinking water.

  9. Ol' Hippy says:

    My long stint at sobriety ended last weekend because I can’t reconcile all the lies and irremediable attempts toward a peaceful world. Seems everyone has their own personal agenda and regular citizens don’t even matter except to pay their taxes. Times will be changing soon but to what is another matter. I hope it’s for the betterment of all and not the fattened wallets after this current feeding frenzy.

    • martin says:

      quote”My long stint at sobriety ended last weekend because I can’t reconcile all the lies and irremediable attempts toward a peaceful world. Seems everyone has their own personal agenda and regular citizens don’t even matter except to pay their taxes. “unquote

      Well.. all I can say is ..DUH! What the fuck do you think us 99% are for. Now, maybe you will see what we are worth, notwithstanding all the fucking innocent lives across this planet that die for nothing but the agenda of the psychopaths on this planet who think they have the right to kill anyone who is in the way of their corporate/government vectors.

    • Evangelista says:

      Ol’ Hippy,

      I imagine that you discovered, through your experiment into insobriety, that there ain’t no chemical, or combination of chemicals, that can alter consciousness to give the Neo-Con Carnival any more sense of being based on sense, or Reality, than any can make the Neo-Liberal Circus to.

      For all of us 99% there is only the midway, where we have choices, just like in elections. Our choices we can say are six, but they are really three, the same three for each, the carnival or the circus versions: Do we want to be sitting-duckies, popping-up bunnies, or flying goosies in our respective national midway shooting galleries?

      Doesn’t matter which we choose, we are all for the amusement of the shooters (The barkers and carnies in our ‘Live-Action Shooting-Gallery booths, who wave in the customers and load and hand across the guns call themselves ‘Experts’ and ‘munitions-suppliers’).

  10. martin says:

    When, at the height of the Vietnam war, my dad told me in response to my aspirations to protest, said… you have two choices. One, support the system. Or .. when you think you can change the world… grow a small garden.

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