Political Animal


January 03, 2012 8:25 AM Meet Charlie Black

By Steve Benen

Four years ago at this time, Mitt Romney was condemning John McCain for inviting corporate lobbyists to help run the senator’s presidential campaign. Now, Romney has begun taking strategic advice from one of those very same corporate lobbyists.

Mitt Romney has added a veteran Washington lobbyist — Charlie Black, a top political aide to Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign — to the circle of informal advisers who are trying to help to guide him to the White House. […]

Mr. Romney’s current presidential campaign is … wary of being linked to the culture of Washington, casting Mr. Romney as an “outsider” and a “businessman” who will clean up the way politics is done in Washington.

But on Monday, aides to Mr. Romney confirmed that Mr. Black, a veteran Washington power broker, is supporting Mr. Romney’s 2012 effort.

It’s not altogether clear how significant a role Black is playing, though the powerful D.C. lobbyist conceded yesterday he offers Romney “occasional” advice.

(Black appears to have settled on Romney, after having encouraged Mitch Daniels to run, not because he thinks the former Massachusetts governor is great, but because Black thinks Romney is better than his rivals. I imagine Romney gets that a lot.)

But for those who’ve forgotten, it’s worth revisiting Black’s interesting lobbying background. The lobbyist served four years ago as McCain’s senior campaign strategist and chief political advisor, but before that, Black put together quite a client list, featuring a motley international crew of thugs and authoritarian tyrants.

In addition to his extensive corporate work, Black’s client list included (but is by no means limited to) Iraq/Iran’s Ahmad Chalabi, Mobutu Sese Seko, Ferdinand Marcos, Somalia’s Mohamed Siad Barre, Nigeria’s Ibrahim Babangida, and Angola’s would-be dictator Jonas Savimbi. In each instance, Black was paid (handsomely) to boost their access, influence, and stature among U.S. policy makers.

MoveOn.org put together this rather brutal video four years ago, when Black was helping run McCain’s campaign.

And now this same Charles Black is offering advice to Mitt Romney. Maybe some enterprising campaign reporter should ask Romney about this.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • c u n d gulag on January 03, 2012 8:42 AM:

    "Iraq/Iran’s Ahmad Chalabi, Mobutu Sese Seko, Ferdinand Marcos, Somalia’s Mohamed Siad Barre, Nigeria’s Ibrahim Babangida, and Angola’s would-be dictator Jonas Savimbi."

    Now THAT'S a 'Murderer's Row" of scumbags!!!

    "Maybe some enterprising campaign reporter should ask Romney about this."

    I think an "enterprising campaign reporter' is a mythical creature sort of like Sasquatch, but might smell a little better.

    Sorry, CRAPTCHA - but you stink no matter what!

  • just bill on January 03, 2012 8:47 AM:

    steve, there is no such thing as an enterprising campaign reporter.

  • Danp on January 03, 2012 8:57 AM:

    A guy with no core principles hires a guy who will do anything for money. On can only wish this was part of the reason so many Republicans support any non-Romney candidate. Unfortunately, any qualms they have are quickly washed away with a mere, "we are moral, decent people."

  • withay on January 03, 2012 9:21 AM:

    Hear the reports this morning of how prospective disruptors were removed "by police" before a Romney rally? Where do you think any substantive questions will get to this guy?

    I would be happy if reporters would state which lines are false (such as misquoting what Obama said about reversing the economy in three years) when reporting on the guy's campaign rhetoric. Willard (just another W) then does not have to be asked the tough questions but his rhetoric does not have to be left standing as if it is true.

  • Ron Byers on January 03, 2012 9:58 AM:

    I am beginning to worry a lot about super pacs. I suspect Gingrich is right. Willard is lying about not coordinating with "his" super pacs. The strategy seems to well thought out not to be the beneficary of coordination.

  • Kiweagle on January 03, 2012 10:42 AM:

    Maybe some enterprising campaign reporter should ask Romney about this.

    I almost did a spit-take with my coffee when I read that last line. As Steve and my fellow commenters well know, every MSM campaign reporter is always careful to avoid anything controversial lest they lose their coveted access to their assigned candidate. This was how McCain was able to get away with so much baggage in the first place.

    The late Tim Russert of Meet the Press fame was a perfect example of someone who chose access to politicians over follow-up questions or actually informing the public, even when he knows they're doing something illegal, e.g. Refusing to reveal discussions with the Bush Administration that confirmed they lied about not outing Valerie Plame of the CIA in order to get back at her husband, Joe Wilson.

  • majun on January 03, 2012 5:41 PM:

    Charlie Black may be in for some hard times ahead, not because of politics, but because of show business. Having topped the Black List as the best unproduced film script of 2011, it is looking pretty good that 2013 will bring us a film version of "College Republicans", which chronicles Karl Rove's campaign for the Presidency of the College Republicans in 1973, with Lee Atwater as his campaign manager. Their opposition for the office was Terry Dolan, managed by Charlie Black. Basically Atwater destoyed Dolan by outing him as a homosexual, mostly through innuendo (although both Dolan and Black bounced back sufficiently to found NCPAC). The only thing positive that could be said about Black through all this was that he wasn't as much of a rat as Atwater - lukewarm praise indeed. If "College Republicans" makes it into the theaters I can't imagine it will do either Rove or Black's careers much good. Atwater and Dolan are blessedly out of the picture.