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On the town with Jonas Savimbi - huge U.S. lobbying expenditures by Angola
Common Cause Magazine,  Spring, 1993  by Steve Burkholder
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The well-connected Washington lobbying firm of Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly has seen dictators such as Somalia's Mohamed Siad Barre, the Philippines' late Ferdinand Marcos and Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire vanish from its client list. So Black, Manafort knows the value of a steadfast tyrant. In the case of Jonas Savimbi, the controversial Angolan rebel leader, it's $600,000 a year - plus expenses.

Trouble is, between 1985 and 1992, Black, Manafort's cash cow may have indirectly been the U.S. Treasury.

Up until 1992, Savimbi, whose UNITA guerrilla forces long battled the Soviet-allied Angolan government, received up to $60 million a year in U.S. aid. Much of it took the form of guns, ammunition and other military supplies shipped by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) via Zaire (whose longtime military dictator. Mobutu, was a $1 million-per-year Black, Manafort client until December 1990).

With most of his war supplies provided by the U.S., Savimbi was able to pay Black, Manafort some $5 million to lobby for U.S. aid, generate favorable U.S. media coverage and gin up political support in Washington. With Black, Manafort's help, Savimbi has made at least five well-publicized trips to Washington, visiting President Reagan at the Oval Office, dining with former U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick and meeting with then-Vice President George Bush in 1988. Bush called Savimbi a "true patriot" and warned that cutting off Savimbi's U.S. aid would be "an immoral sellout of a loyal friend."

And apparently a loss for a few posh hotels and watering holes as well. The bill for Savimbi's week-long trip to Washington and New York in October 1991 came to almost $473,000, according to foreign lobbying records Black, Manafort filed with the U.S. Justice Department. The tab for hotel rooms at Washington's Park Hyatt totaled $98,022. Limousine costs alone for the excursion were $26,709 in Washington and $5,293 in Manhattan. Black, Manafort partner Paul Manafort charged $19,300 for his consulting services during that week plus $1,712 in expenses.

During a U.S. tour a year earlier, Savimbi's stay at the Park Hyatt cost $136,424 - not counting tips of $2,705. Lobbying records also list $1,143 paid to Motorola for something called "survival kits."

Savimbi knows his Washington influence peddlers. Black, Manafort senior partner Charles Black was a major political strategist for both Reagan and Bush, and last year worked as a senior adviser for the 1992 Bush campaign. The firm gave $8,450 in so-called soft money to the Clinton ticket, and partner Peter Kelly has served as a fundraiser and senior political adviser to the Clinton campaign since October 1991. A former finance chair and treasurer of the Democratic National Committee, he co-chaired a $1,500-per-plate inaugural dinner for Vice President Al Gore and was a financial adviser to Clinton's inaugural committee, which raised more than $20 million.

In late January, the Clinton administration publicly criticized Savimbi, who resumed civil war after he lost the national election last fall - an election he demanded. Since October, thousands of Angolans have been killed in the latest round of fighting. But Black, Manafort doesn't seem troubled by allegations that Savimbi tortured and murdered his rivals within UNITA or his resumption of the civil war. While Kelly declined to respond to questions regarding the substance of the firm's contract with Savimbi, in a 1990 interview Black defended him, saying, "Now when you're in a war, trying to manage a war, when the enemy ... is no more than a couple of hours away from you at any given time, you might not run your territory according to New Hampshire town meeting rules."

COPYRIGHT 1993 Common Cause Magazine
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group