Trump’s ex- campaign chief manager, Paul Manafort, is facing 18 charges related to bank fraud and tax evasion, money laundering, failure to register as a foreign agent, and obstruction of justice. The financial crimes charges are related to his work for a former Ukrainian president.
According to the Washington Post, “Paul Manafort made more than $60 million consulting for a Russia-backed political party in Ukraine”. The party was led by former Ukrainian president, Victor Yanukovych. Manafort worked as lobbyist for Victor Yanukovych and his Regions Party from 2009 until 2014 when Yanukovych was ousted from power following violent anti-government and anti-corruption protests.
Business Insider has described Manafort’s trial as prosecutors “entertaining the jury with details of [a] political consultant’s lavish lifestyle”. According to Uzo Asonye, the leading prosecutor of the case, Manafort used the millions made from Ukraine on custom law suits, lavish cars, and sprawling properties. One of the more bizarre items that investigators found in their raid on Manafort’s home was a $15,000 hooded jacket made of ostrich.
While the prosecution of Manafort and the excoriating details about his luxurious lifestyle may be entertaining to the average American, it is a moment of reckoning for those in developing countries were these funds came from. In 2015, a university lecturer in Ukraine earned a paltry $314 (6900 hryvnia) per month. A junior military officer earned $270 per month, while an average worker in the private sector made just $180.
Authoritarian regimes in Europe, Latin America and Africa use several US based lobbyist to protect and promote their interest in the US. As the Kenyan Daily Nation notes, these lobbyist “are also expected to deflect criticism against their client country, when the US Congress takes note, concerning violations of human rights”. In 2017, lobbyists in Washington made $8.9 billion from foreign governments.
Manafort’s trail is taking place during the same week where troubling revelations have been made about Cameroon’s government relations with the US Washington based lobbying firm Patton Boggs. Document circulating on social media allege that the Cameroonian government has hired the firm for $400,000 a year, excluding expenses.
The Cameroonian government has a long history of hiring lobbyists, an in particular Patt
on Boggs, to sweeten its image in the US. The government hired the firm in 2004, through the office of the Prime Minister. The person of contact was Piere Moukoko Mbonjo. That same year, six former members of US Congress served as “election observers” in Cameroon and offered positive assessment of President Paul Biya’s overwhelming re-election victory. However, it was later found out that the so-called observers had been financed by Patton Boggs.
Manafort’s trial has raised several questions over the ethics of the lobbying business in the US. The real question those in developing countries should be asking is how much their leaders are spending on these lobbyists at the detriment of local infrastructure and other development projects.