THE BLOG
05/15/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Terry McAuliffe: The Torturer's Lobbyist

As a law student, I'm fortunate to have access to some pretty powerful research tools. Lexis and Westlaw are the ultimate wayback machines.

I've been using them ever since I attended a dinner with McAuliffe a few weeks back and he fielded a question about his previous business ventures. At the time, he claimed he was an open book. Since then, I've discovered that is far from the truth. He's got skeletons in his closet that he definitely doesn't want to talk about.

I've already written about the stink emanating from the failed S&L his father-in-law ran and the way McAuliffe exploited the aftermath. Read about that here. It's especially salient given the banking mess we find ourselves in today.

Since then, I've been looking into something else Terry McAuliffe probably wishes he could sweep under the rug: his role at McAuliffe, Kelly and Raffaelli, a heavy-hitting DC lobbying firm. McAuliffe will tell you that he has never lobbied; that his job as managing partner in the firm was to drum up clients... to be the "rainmaker."

I don't know why, but somehow McAuliffe seems to think that makes him less culpable... This is the man that, while soliciting donors to the DCCC, virtually coined the phrase, "come be a part of the process." McAuliffe seems genuinely ignorant of the reality that many of us in the Democratic Party believe "pay to play" politics is filthy, a betrayal of core Democratic values and ultimately detrimental to the well-being of the Party. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that he thinks he's somehow less "guilty" as the "business development" partner than the lobbyist he was charged with keeping busy.

But really, isn't the "rainmaker" more guilty? Without McAuliffe on the firm's nameplate, there almost certainly wouldn't be as much for the lobbyists to do. It seems obvious to this reporter that as far as the lobbying firm was concerned, McAuliffe's most valuable asset was his expansive rolodex.

Here is how the game works: Entity A needs earmark X. Congressman Y, tight with Terry McAuliffe, says, "go hire Terry's firm. Let me give you the number." Money flows from Entity A to McAuliffe's firm, all of the staff at McAuliffe's firm max out to Congressman Y and earmark X is a done deal. Brilliant.

Ok. Not.

Especially when you start to look at whom some of McAuliffe's clients were. As an example, let's look at just one: the Turkish government. (We'll look at a few others soon enough.)

The Center for Public Integrity published a report that revealed McAuliffe's firm was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to manage Turkey's "image" within the United States. In fact, collectively, Turkey spent $3.8 million on lobbyists over the 1991-92 reporting cycle.

Why so much? Well to begin with, Turkey was the third largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid in 1991; they received over $800 million dollars. It was a nice gravy-train to be riding on and had to be protected. But protected from what?

Here's an excerpt from the report [PDF]:

President Bush lavishly praised President Turgut Ozal during his visit to Turkey in July 1991, the first by a U.S. President in more than 30 years. At a state dinner, Bush said, "There has been no country as resolute as Turkey and no ally like President Ozal." Bush referred to Turkey as his "second home."

The same month that Bush was regaled by Ozal, the body of Vedat Aydin, a human rights worker, was discovered along a roadside in southeastern Turkey. His skull was fractured, his legs were broken, and his body riddled with more than a dozen bullet wounds. He had been taken from his home by several armed men who identified themselves as police officers. No one was charged with his slaying.

...

[According to the State Department's 1991 report on human rights] "Knowledgable observers contended that most persons charged with - or merely suspected of - political crimes are tortured... Credible reports indicate that high-pressure cold water hoses, electric shocks, beating of the genitalia and hanging by the arms are methods commonly employed."

Here's the AP story from October, 1992, reporting on an Amnesty International report:

"In Turkey, the report said, a 16-year-old Kurdish girl, Biseng Anik, was among 100 people detained by Turkish police last March in Sirnak province in the country's southeast following disturbances during the Kurdish new year. The region is the site of a Kurdish rebellion. The girl died in police custody. When her mother collected the body, she found that half her daughter's head had been shot away, her hands were torn between the fingers, some fingers were broken and her flesh was covered with cigarette burns, cuts and bruises. Amnesty said police claimed the girl was put in a cell where a rifle had been left inadvertently under the bed and she killed herself."

Well, now we know why Turkey thought its image might need some airbrushing.

I wish I could say that is all I had to tell you. But with Terry McAuliffe, the muck sometimes seems bottomless.

McAuliffe's firm wasn't the only one hired to help Turkey with their "image" problem. At the time, we had a Republican in the White House; it made sense for the Turkish government to cover all the bases. So in addition to a $200K exclusive contract, McAuliffe's firm shared a $500K retainer with Thompson & Co., a lobbying firm headed by Robert Thompson. According to the Center for Public Integrity report:

Thompson made headlines in 1990 when a Senate subcommittee disclosed that he lobbied on behalf of James Fail, an Arizona businessman, to arrange a controversial purchase of 15 insolvent savings and loans institutions. Fail, whose Bluebonnet Savings Bank of Dallas stands to receive billions in federal subsidies, put up only $1,000 of his own money and $70 million in borrowed funds. The transaction was called the "worst case" of abuse in the nationwide S&L scandal by Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio).

Sound familiar?

I wish I could stop, but there's more.

Let's have a look at who else was hired to lobby for Turkey. More from the report [PDF]:

In addition, the Republic of Turkey has hired International Advisers, Inc. ... Douglas Feith, Chairman and CEO of International Advisers. Inc. ... Richard Perle, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy, is also a consultant for International Advisers, Inc...

From July 11,1991 to January 11,1992, the firm met with or contacted 54 high-ranking administration officials including then Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger... and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz.

After thinking about this a little bit more, I'm less inclined to be surprised that McAuliffe seems to be oblivious to the optics of his cash 'n' carry style of politics. Everyone knows that sewer workers get used to the smell.

Coming soon! McAuliffe's other clients: union-busters... India... the chemical and nuclear industries... more savory characters!!

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