ThinkProgress recently reported on Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) long friendship with Iraqi exile leader Ahmad Chalabi, who drummed up claims that Saddam Hussein had WMD and helped lead the United States into war.
But McCain isn’t the only one on his campaign with ties to Chalabi. Charlie Black serves as McCain’s (R-AZ) chief political adviser. He is also an uber-lobbyist, “chairman of one of Washington’s lobbying powerhouses,” BKSH and Associates.
Black and BKSH represented Chalabi’s former group, the Iraqi National Congress, giving the Iraqi politician access to high-powered officials in Washington. Chalabi even scored a seat in First Lady Laura Bush’s VIP box at the 2004 SOTU address. This connection has also helped Black, who “touted” his ties to Chalabi to get work in Iraq:
– “Due to our past representation of the INC,” says Black, “we know and have worked with a lot of people who will be in the provisional government. We have a number of clients who are interested in doing business in Iraq.” Black adds that his firm is “strongly considering” opening an office in Baghdad. [National Journal, 8/7/03]
— When it comes to Iraqi connections, the competition is fierce. BKSH & Associates, the lobby firm run by GOP strategist Charlie Black, touts its connections to Ahmed Chalabi (until recently a Pentagon sweetheart), who formerly headed the exiled Iraqi National Congress and is currently on Iraq’s governing council. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 10/1/03]
This PR paid off. In 2005, BKSH was hired by The Lincoln Group, which had a federal government contract to secretly pay Iraqi newspapers “to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S. mission in Iraq.”
BKSH helped sell this misguided war to the American public. Francis Brooke, a BKSH employee who worked with Chalabi, helped focus on WMD in the case for war. Brooke and Chalabi’s group were specifically “enlisted to promote the danger posed by Saddam’s regime.” [New Yorker, 6/7/04]
In 1998, McCain pressured the Clinton administration to give Chalabi funding, and once called him “a patriot who has the best interests of his country at heart.” In fact, McCain was Chalabi’s “favored candidate in the 2000 election.”