Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


After years of honing their media skills in the United States, political consultants are heading overseas — especially to countries with emerging democracies. Critics, including University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato, are concerned about the implications of U.S. citizens swaying foreign elections. Sabato also speculates that hiring American political insiders could be a way to secure influence in this country. But James Carville, an architect of President Clinton’s 1992 victory and a veteran of Greek and Brazilian elections, downplays this: “I kind of look at foreign campaigns the way Winston Churchill looked at alcohol: ‘I’ve taken a lot more from alcohol than alcohol has taken from me.’ I’ve learned more from them than they’ve learned from me.”

In any case, at daily rates as high as $10,000, these consultants are certainly finding it hard to pass up overseas work, even when it places them in danger. “Unless you’re going to make some serious money, it’s not worth it,” says George Gorton, who worked on Boris Yeltsin’s campaign. “We thought maybe we were going to be killed some of the time. It’s the Wild West over there.” Some Washington insiders who’ve braved the wild ride include:

Paul Begala, James Carville, and Mary Matalin
This trio advised Greek Premier Constantine Mitsotakis (“Which Greece do you want?”) in his failed 1993 re-election bid. Working for a conservative was a new experience for Clintonites Begala and Carville. The Ragin’ Cajun, ever spinning, explains: “In most foreign campaigns, the party of the right is, like, twice as liberal as the Democratic Party.” Mitsotakis lost to Socialist Andreas Papandreou, who also used the services of an American: then-New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Chris Spirou.

George Gorton, Joe Shumate, and Richard Dresner
The American reporters who covered Yeltsin’s 1996 election were skeptical about the influence these Pete Wilson (“A strong voice for America”) veterans had on the Yeltsin (“I believe. I love. I hope. Boris Yeltsin”) campaign, but Hollywood took notice, and an HBO movie about them is slated for January 1998. If Gorton’s comments to the Sacramento Bee are any indication, it is sure to be dramatic: “Russia needs democracy…. I would be remiss in my duty to mankind if I didn’t use every political consulting trick I could think of to keep what I felt was a great evil from returning to mankind.” Maybe so, but his share of the $250,000 fee didn’t hurt.

Arthur Finkelstein
Benjamin Netanyahu may lack Al D’Amato’s, um, charisma, but the Israeli prime minister and New York senator do have Arthur Finkelstein in common. The reclusive conservative helped the hawkish prime minister craft his campaign ads and refine his 1996 message: “Making a secure peace.” Finkelstein’s U.S. client roster also includes New York’s governor, George Pataki, whose “Too liberal for too long” slogan helped bring down Mario Cuomo in 1994.

Mark Mellman
Mellman braved the bullets of Bogota´, Colombia, to help Cesar Gaviria (“With Gaviria, there is a future”) win the presidency in 1990. In a country where three presidential candidates — including Gaviria’s mentor — had been assassinated, television became the safest venue for the campaign. The Beltway pollster’s other clients include Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), British Labor Party members, and various Yeltsin cronies.

Frank Greer
Clinton adviser Greer aided Czech President Vaclav Havel in 1993 with the Czech Republic’s first democratic election. Greer then helped Nelson Mandela (“A better life for all”) make the transition from political prisoner to politician during South Africa’s first open elections in 1994. Greer told the Chicago Tribune: “Mandela wanted us because he perceived that Clinton ran a good, modern, clean campaign…. When I saw South Africans waiting 48 hours in line to vote, and having a 99 percent turnout, I knew we had not yet exported the cynicism created in this country.”

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate