Charlie Black On His Lobbying Career

"I'm not ashamed of anything the firm did," McCain adviser Charlie Black says of his days as the principle in one of Washington's most influential lobbying firms. "If they want to use it to fire up the left wing, well, that's fine."

Black is referring to a campaign by liberal watchdog and political groups to pressure McCain into dumping Black, now a top McCain campaign strategist. Today, MoveOn's political action fund released a video accusing Black of lobbying "for some of the world's worst tyrants."



Say this for Mr. Black: he has been forthcoming about his associations.

He told me, as he has told other reporters, that his firm ran every potential foreign client by the State Department and/or the White House in whatever administration was in power and asked whether the scope of the work fit with American foreign policy goals.

"A lot of times it wasn't [within the scope], and we didn't do it," he said.

Black allowed that "in some cases, it went bad."

When Black took on Ferdinand Marcos as a client, the president of the Phillipines was democratically elected. "When he tried to steal the election, Reagan pulled the plug and we resigned the account the same day." Marcos, among other crimes, authorized the arrest of political opponents and was a kleptocrat.

On Mobuto Sese Seko, Black says that the State Department was encourarging him to hold parliamentary elections and his firm advised Sese Seko on how to conduct such elections. The election took place; Sese Seko didn't like the election results and he cancelled the election results and we quit." Sese Seko became a dictator.

Other examples cited by MoveOn and other critics: Angolan rebel Jonas Savimbi and Ahmad Chalabi.

As Black points out, Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly -- now BKSH and Associates, is a bipartisan firm; it's CEO, R. Scott Pastrick, is a former treasurer of the Democratic National Committee and a supporter of Hillary Clinton's. (It's now owned by Burston Marsteller, which, of course, is run by Mark Penn.)

I asked Black about McCain's new conflict of interest policy.

" I think it's mostly a clarification. McCain has had pretty high standards, always. I don't know of anyone who worked on the campaign who would have gone and tried to lobby Mccain and his staff."

The campaign supports Mr. Black -- aides say that he's an integral part of the team and will not be going anywhere anytime soon.

And Black insists that his lobbying days are over. "I'm a retired lobbyist," he says.

Presented by

Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Photos of New York City, in Motion

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book

Video

The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"

Video

This Japanese Inn Has Been Open For 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.

Video

What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.

More in Politics

Just In