"We've shipped million of jobs overseas and we have a strange situation because we have a process in Washington where after you served for a while you cash in, become a foreign lobbyist, make thirty-thousand-dollars a month, then take a leave (to) work on Presidential campaigns, make sure you've got good contacts, and then go back out." (Ross Perot, 1992 Presidential Debate)
Is the idea of "two political parties" an illusion to make voters believe they have a choice? Comedian George Carlin thought so...
Carlin was only half-joking. In New Jersey, the top leaders of both parties share office space in the same law and lobby firms. The same public relations firms/ political consultants advise both Democrats and Republicans -- as well as corporations and foreign governments. Take Mercury Public Affairs as an example.
Once upon a time, there were campaign managers who came up through the ranks alongside the politicians whose careers they helped to manage. From these managers came the first campaign consultants. Regional or statewide at first, but with the centralizing power of the national committees and national money there soon came to be the "national" consultant -- recommended by one of the party committees or put in place by them.
But as more money washed into DC and was funneled into campaigns, that changed. Consultants proliferated and firms became larger. Following the money, a few either merged with or morphed into public relations and lobbying (government relations) operations. Why not? Corporations paid big for access to politicians and there is nobody politicians love more than the person who got them elected.
It was only a matter of time that things went global. And that is how a number of New Jersey political operatives became members of an international firm that represents the interests of quite a few unsavory foreign governments. These include Mo Butler, United States Senator Cory Booker's campaign consultant, former chief of staff, and "longtime advisor"; Michael Soliman, United States Senator and former Chairman of the Senate Committee of Foreign Relations Robert Menendez's political advisor and former State Director; and Michael DuHaime, Governor Chris Christie's campaign consultant and someone who has worked on several Republican presidential campaigns.
Mercury Public Affairs began in 1999 as a decidedly Republican shop with connections to the RNC and politicians like John McCain and Mitt Romney, around 2013 it embarked on a mission to "diversify" -- meaning making the firm "more bipartisan and full-service." Mike DuHaime joined the firm in 2009, first as a "managing director" but swiftly rising to partner. Michael Soliman joined Mercury in 2013 and became a partner in 2016. Mo Butler joined as a "managing director" in 2016. Mercury Public Affairs has 10 partners and 160 employees.
Mercury Public Affairs is itself a subsidiary of an even larger international firm that handles the image-making for Russian President Vladimir Putin, receiving credit for, among other accomplishments, getting Putin's face on the cover of Time magazine -- as the "Person of the Year" for 2007. Omnicom purchased Mercury in 2003.
Mercury Public Affairs has 18 offices worldwide -- including London; Mexico City; Washington, DC; New York; and Westfield, New Jersey. The New Jersey offices (a satellite operates out of Trenton) of Mercury are the haunt of Messrs. DuHaime, Soliman, Butler, and other connected operatives like newspaperman Darryl Isherwood (former top political reporter for the Star-Ledger and editor of PolitickerNJ), and "Christie campaign vet" Mark Mowers.
In January 2015, Michael Soliman registered with the United States Justice Department, pursuant to the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as a person representing the Embassy of the State of Qatar. You must have read about Qatar in the news...Amnesty International has accused Qatar of being complicit in human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Yes, slavery. In fact, the United Nations gave Qatar one year "to end migrant worker slavery" or face an international investigation.
Qatar is just one of freedom's garden spots represented by Mercury Public Affairs. Remember the controversy in Uganda, when the President of that country decided that homosexuality was a crime that should be punishable by death? Well, the law he wanted passed was "moderated" in December 2013, substituting life imprisonment for the death penalty. In 2015, Mercury was brought on to provide public relations, lobbying, and media monitoring services with regards to the Office of the President and the Ugandan government in general on subjects beginning with "human rights" and ending with "good governance." For which the contract calls for Mercury to be compensated at the rate of $50,000 per month, with $150,000 up front.
Mercury also represents individuals. Folks like Khalid bin Saqr Al Qasimi, who in 2003 led an anti-American demonstration in which he personally burned an American flag. For its work, Mercury pocketed a $30,000 monthly retainer, plus expenses.
In January 2016, Mercury Public Affairs partner Morris Reid negotiated a contract with Amsterdam & Partners, an international law firm with offices in London and Washington, DC. The document is marked "confidential and privileged" but is public information under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. In August of 2015, Amsterdam & Partners signed a contract with the Turkish Ambassador to the United States to provide legal services related to a "matter of importance" to the embassy. The government of Turkey paid Amsterdam a retainer of $50,000 a month.
While the contract stipulates that the greatest security and confidentiality be observed, under the terms of the contract between Amsterdam and Turkey, third parties may be hired "as the Firm and the Client agree in writing are necessary to further the Engagement." And so, in March of 2016, Amsterdam hired Mercury to perform work on behalf of the Turkish government for $20,000 a month -- above and beyond what was being paid to Amsterdam by Turkey. It is in the contract between Amsterdam & Partners and Mercury Public Affairs that we learn what all this cloak and dagger is in aid of. The Amsterdam-Mercury contract references an "investigation into Fethullah Gulen and his organization in the United States." So who is Fethullah Gulen?
Gulen has been in the news since the attempted coup in Turkey in 2016. Gulen is a religious leader from Turkey, and a one-time political ally of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan is the increasingly authoritarian and Islamist President of Turkey. He has been repeatedly in the news for purging the judiciary, jailing journalists who write unflattering reports, and successfully intimidating the opposition. Erdogan had a law passed to allow the government to ban websites and he has promised to "rip out the roots" of Twitter. He has even attempted to censor speech in other nations, in 2015 Turkey demanding that Germany prosecute a poet who had written some verse critical of Erdogan.
Erdogan and Gulen had a falling out over allegations of political corruption by Erdogan in 2013. Gulen's books were banned. First, he was indicted on charges that a Turkish judge threw out, but then was indicted a few months later for treasonable offenses that carried the death penalty. Gulen fled Turkey, came to the United States, and was convicted in absentia.
The government of Turkish President Erdogan has attempted to extradite Gulen back to Turkey to face punishment, but the government of the United States hasn't cooperated. In the hours after the coup attempt, Erdogan was quick to blame Gulen, while Gulen put forward the theory that Erdogan had staged the coup himself in order to consolidate power.
Why does Mercury Public Affairs want to be a part of extraditing a moderate cleric to satisfy the rage of an Islamist dictator?
Last year, Mercury Public Affairs was the subject of a subpoena in the on-going investigation into Russia's meddling in the United States presidential election in 2016. According to the Washington Post, former FBI Director and Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller obtained the subpoena seeking information about work Mercury had done for a pro-Putin political party in the Ukraine:
"The investigators asked Mercury for information about their public relations work at Manafort’s behest for a Brussels-based organization called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, which pushed for improved relations between Ukraine and European countries. The Brussels group primarily advanced the interests of a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party that had been a client of Manafort’s before he joined the Trump campaign.
Mercury, which has prominent Republicans among its senior partners, had worked on the Ukraine lobbying project with the Podesta group, led by Anthony Podesta, brother of John Podesta, who led Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign."
The full article can be accessed below:
This is exactly what Presidential candidate Ross Perot warned about in 1992. He said our politics was headed here and here we are... some of New Jersey's "top political operatives" are now foreign agents (as far as the U.S. Justice Department is concerned).
How can any of this be good for our Republic?