A former associate in Paul Manafort’s lobbying shop is currently helping African politicians accused of corruption make inroads with Washington D.C. lawmakers and lobbyists, reports the New York Times.
According to the report, Riva Levinson is not ashamed of having worked for President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman who is now serving time in federal prison for fraud — saying she learned much when he mentored her on the art of persuasion.
“Paul was a master strategist. He could hover above at 30,000 feet and see how all of the moving parts fit together and then move each one with precision,” she said in an interview before adding, “I learned that from him, and he gave me a front-row seat to watch history. I’m grateful to him for this.”
The Times notes that political consultants with ties to Trump and his administration are much sought after by African politicians — including those in countries the president has disparaged as “shitholes.”
One prominent African politician Levinson and her lobbying company — KRL International — helped represent is Nigerian presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar and a senator in his party who managed his failed campaign.
According to the Times, “Mr. Abubakar lost. But during the campaign, Ms. Levinson and a team of other American lobbyists and consultants with ties to Mr. Trump helped their client secure meetings with legislators and with powerful American lobbying groups. He stayed at the Trump International Hotel, a five-star hotel near the White House.”
As for Abubakar’s background, the report notes he was “named as a prime example of overseas corruption by a United States Senate subcommittee in 2010,” after being accused of funneling millions of dollars Nigerian oil revenues into foreign shell accounts which led to his being banned from visiting the U.S.
According to Matthew T. Page, an ex-State Department official working as a fellow in the Africa program of Chatham House, what Levinson is doing is covering up corruption.
“These firms help candidates launder their image in Washington, London and New York, shifting outside attention away from the bare-knuckle reality of their election campaigns. “They also seek to manipulate the election narrative by planting press stories or neutralizing negative narratives on social media.”
Levinson is not the only lobbyist receiving scrutiny from the New York Times, with other major players — including Ballard Partners and global public relations firm Ogilvy included.
As for Levinson, she admitted that she left Manafort in 1995, after ten years, and that she does not approve of all of his methods.
“I knew that a Paul Manafort unbound by structure and oversight would be dangerous. I wanted no part of that,” she told the Times.
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