Funny how careers and reputations evolve.
Nearly 28 years ago, the nation’s capital saw a slight hint of a prequel to current controversies involving certain lobbyists, consultants and elected officials.
Paul Manafort, who was Donald Trump’s campaign manager, now sits on a public hot seat over his business activities in Eastern Europe and the ongoing blowup over the Russians.
On June 20, 1989, Manafort testified before a congressional committee about the use of his GOP political contacts in the pursuit of a potentially lucrative federal housing contract.
At the time, Manafort was a partner in the firm Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly. That’s Stone as in then-partner Roger Stone, the self-described political dirty trickster who is also drawing attention these days in the Russian maelstrom.
That day, Manafort testified, as recorded in The Washington Post: “The technical term for what we do — and law firms, associations and professional groups do — is lobby.”
“For the purposes of today, I will stipulate that, in a narrow sense, some people may term it influence-peddling.”
Manafort responded to questions from the House Government Operations’ housing subcommittee, then exploring how well-connected Republicans worked the levers of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
For dramatic effect, none other than Chuck Schumer, then a congressman from Brooklyn, waved an advertisement published in connection with a HUD-funded New Jersey construction project in which Manafort was involved.
Schumer, now the Senate minority leader, told Manafort then: “You could have cut out all this language and written one sentence: The fix is in.”
The firm, which existed for 16 years until 1996, counted among its clients foreign dictators Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Mobuto Sese Seko of Zaire, and Jonas Savimbi of Angola.
For his part, Stone is said to have known Trump longer than anyone in politics. By the end of the 2016 campaign, he was deemed an informal adviser. They reportedly met back in the day through New York City lawyer and power broker Roy Cohn.
And yet, the longtime relationship between Stone and the president, for whom he was an occasional lobbyist, seems to have had its ups and downs.
In a 2008 profile of Stone in the New Yorker magazine, Trump is quoted as saying: “Roger is a stone-cold loser. He always tries taking credit for things he never did.”
During last year’s campaign, the flamboyant Stone talked openly about having “backchannel” contacts with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who published hacked Democratic National Committee documents. Under the Obama administration, intelligence officials tied the hacks to the Putin regime.
These days it might prove best for Stone if he can show the FBI that Trump had been right about all the empty boasting.