The Shady Past of Mitt Romney’s Chief Strategist

Connections to authoritarian regimes in Albania and Congo
Politics • Views: 29,741

At the New Republic, Penn Bullock has a well-researched article on the disturbing history of Mitt Romney’s chief campaign strategist: Stuart Stevens’ Shady Past Clients, Revealed.

For Romney to brag behind closed doors that his consultants are using tactics honed in foreign elections is peculiar, to say the least. The well-traveled consultants he praised were almost certainly his chief strategist, Stuart Stevens, and Stevens’ longtime sidekick, Russ Schriefer. And before taking charge of Romney’s presidential campaign as its “Karl Rove equivalent,” Stevens helped lift at least two foreign strongmen into power, guiding them to victory in elections rife with irregularities and violence.

Stevens, whom The New Republic profiled in August, says he relishes politics “for the smell of napalm in the morning,” and, by his own admission, his political work is driven by something like a sublimated aggression—it provides “an outlet for my violent tendencies.” An article last month in Politico that portrayed Stevens as the target of vicious sniping within the campaign mentioned in passing that he worked in Albania and the Congo. But it didn’t name the leaders whose campaigns he ran: Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha and Congolese President Joseph Kabila, authoritarian figures who have alarmed human rights groups and, at times, the U.S. State Department.

The depth of Stevens’ involvement in the campaigns of Berisha and Kabila is evident from the LinkedIn profile of Joel Frushone, a former deputy at Stevens’ consulting firm, the Stevens & Schriefer Group. His resume says the firm managed almost every aspect of their election bids, from “high level multimedia campaigns” to “fundraising,” “policy development,” “in-depth opposition research,” and “political strategy, media plans and tactics”—virtually the same services Stevens provides Romney.

Frushone offered only a brief comment. “I know the intimate details of what we did there,” he said, “and it was all above board.”

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