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Democratic Consultants: Paid to Lose

The New York Times chose to spend Christmas reminding us of the obscene amounts Democratic consultants have been paid for their services in past Presidential campaigns. As in Bob "don’t worry, John, that Swiftboat thing — it’ll all blow over" Shrum:

Behind the scenes, they were fighting over the lucrative fees for handling Mr. Kerry’s television advertising. The campaign manager, Mary Beth Cahill, became so fed up over the squabbling that she told the consultants, led by Robert Shrum, one of the most prominent and highly paid figures in the business, to figure out how to split the money themselves.

Divvy it up they did. Though the final tally has never been publicly disclosed, interviews and records show that the five strategists and their firms ultimately took in nearly $9 million, the richest payday for any Democratic media consultants up to then and roughly what the Bush campaign paid its consultants for a more extensive ad campaign.

Mr. Shrum and his two partners, Tad Devine and Mike Donilon, walked away with $5 million of the total. And that was after Ms. Cahill, in the closing stages of the race that fall, diverted $1 million that would otherwise have gone to the consultants to buying more advertising time in what turned out to be an unsuccessful effort to defeat Mr. Bush.

Ah Tad Devine. Who went to Bolivia to help Goni get elected to the Presidency, as chronicled in the documentary "Our Brand is Crisis" (YouTube above). Who could forget the opening scenes of the film, of rioting and blood running in the streets of Bolivia, followed by Tad Devine standing on a corner wearing a sweater vest and talking into a cell phone saying shit like "This is the frame — we can brand crisis."

No it’s not a comedy, at least not intentionally so. (Though I challenge you to watch the scene of Jeremy Rosner sitting behind a two-way mirror typing frantically on his computer as they test messaging on a focus group of Bolivian farmers and not howl with laughter. It’s like something from a Christopher Guest movie.)

In the YouTube above, Rosner talks briefly about why he is in Bolivia, and his deeply felt conviction that Goni has the best program for raising Bolivia out of poverty. They managed to get him elected all right, by the slimmest of pluralities, but Goni tried to implement "Shock Doctrine" policies and was forced to resign shortly thereafter:

Goni, who was president from 1991-97 and from 2002-03, was forced out of office by the people of Bolivia for his violations of both human rights and democratic principles.

During his reign, Goni pushed neoliberal, export-oriented economic reforms onto the very poor and largely unwilling population of Bolivia. He privatized many of Bolivia’s state-owned enterprises, including the country’s national oil company which resulted in losses of $40 million/year in government revenues. He proposed tax increases on the working poor. He tried to further privatize Bolivia’s oil and gas sector, which would have led to the resources being sold back to the Bolivian people at much higher rates. Overall, his privatization policies led to higher unemployment, an increase in poverty levels, decreased national income, and a greater economic dependency on international institutions.

Goni’s disastrous economic policies led to may civil protests throughout the country. These protests were often met with military force.

  • In Feb. 2003, police in La Paz went on strike partly in protest of the proposed tax increases, and the ensuing gun battle with the government troops, followed by civil protests, left 34 Bolivians dead.
  • In Oct. 2003, the "Gas War" began in El Alto. Citizens protesting Goni’s plan to further privatize gas and oil were fired on by government troops trying to break apart their blockade of La Paz. Twenty-eight people were killed, and during the protests that followed in El Alto and La Paz, the military killed another 39 people.

Goni was forced out of office due to the massive protests he faced after the October massacre. He and two of his ministers fled to the U.S., where they have been living ever since. The Bolivian people have demanded that Goni and his cabinet ministers, who are responsible for these murders, be returned to their country to face the "Trial of Responsibility" that the Bolivian Congress authorized in 2004.

The Bolivian Supreme Court indicted Goni in February of this year. Goni lives in the United States, where he has been protected from extradition by the Bushies. Six law firms and human rights groups, however, recently filed suits in Maryland, demanding compensation for the families of those killed in the protest.

Anyway, I just wanted to make the point that these "Democratic consultants" aren’t just parasites on the American political process, they’re willing to spread their services around the globe. With predictably disastrous results.

For the right price, of course.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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