Beware of the American Political Snake Oil Salesmen

The election engineering merchants of George Soros and other “one-size-fits-all” democracy templates may have been vanquished in Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Myanmar, but they are, by no means, down and out. International non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have simply borrowed a page from international consultancies and gone quasi-private, racking up lucrative contracts as political advisers to pro-capitalist candidates around the world.

With the US Foreign Service largely neutered under President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, there is virtually no one left at various US embassies in far-flung diplomatic posts to warn host governments about the modern version of American “snake oil salesmen” pitching their election assistance wares to unsuspecting candidates for office.

Take Vanguard Africa, a Washington, DC-based election campaign consultancy that seeks public contributions under the aegis of the Democratic Party’s fundraising organization, ActBlue. During a time when there are complaints in the United States of foreign interference in American elections, why is an outfit like Vanguard America involved in elections in The Gambia and Niger? What is good for the goose should be good for the gander.

If someone donates to ActBlue to elect more Democrats to the US Congress, state legislatures, and mayors’ offices, why is ActBlue, working with Vanguard Africa, involved in helping to elect in January 2017, Adama Barrow as president of The Gambia in West Africa? Vanguard Africa’s US leadership includes Joe Trippi, former Vermont Democratic Governor Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign chairman, and former Democratic US Representative Al Wynn of Maryland.

Vanguard Africa unabashedly admits on its website that it mixes election engineering with lobbying in Washington: “Access to Influential Leaders – Opening lines of communication and building trusted, long-term relationships with key pro-democracy groups, civic leaders, elected officials and policymakers – in Washington, DC and internationally.” While such a service helps line the pockets of Washington lobbyists and increases the profiles of certain African leaders, such as Barrow in The Gambia, it does little to alleviate the extreme poverty of Africans in The Gambia or anywhere else on the continent.

It is not merely the connections of outfits like Vanguard Africa to the Central Intelligence Agency-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) that should ring alarm bells, but also its connection to the Washington lobbying organization Sanitas International, whose partner, Christopher Harvin, is a co-founder of Vanguard Africa. Sanitas has a contract with Tzvika Brot, of Delaware-incorporated BSI Public Affairs, Brot ran the 2016 get-out-the-vote campaign targeting US voters in Israel on behalf of Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. Washington deal-making does not get any “swampier” than this. And Mr. Trump, who rants and raves about “draining the swamp,” is one of its chief scaly denizens.

Perhaps it is time for an international convention, either through the auspices of the United Nations or regional supranational organizations, like the African Union, European Union, and others, to prohibit all foreign government or corporate interference in elections in other countries. If narcotics and human trafficking, as well as weapons smuggling, can be banned internationally, why not foreign election interference? …

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