The Business of Misinformation
The Weekly Standard recently published a fascinating account of what can only be likened to political, farcical theater, no doubt at a steep price for those behind the scenes who were responsible for the event.
This week, former Congressman and failed-senate-candidate-turned journeyman lobbyist-for-hire Connie Mack moderated a briefing featuring Serhiy Taruta and Oleksandr Zavadetsky. The event was purportedly designed to spotlight corruption in Ukraine, with a focus on alleged malfeasance by Valeriya Hontareva during her tenure at the helm of its National Bank. In fact, it was a fake-news lynching of a respected reformer.
Mack’s propaganda-driven tirade – masked as a pursuit against Ukrainian corruption – was held in room HC-8 of the Capitol Building itself, yes, under the giant dome of American democracy. Ex-Rep. Mack was the host of this travesty in the holy of holies of the great American Republic.
The ex-congressman hosted and falsely masked a poorly-attended panel discussion as a formal hearing, as no officials from the executive or legislative branches were in attendance. In fact, the only official connotation were warnings against using rooms in the Capitol to further lobbying endeavors — a strictly forbidden practice. Despite this, Mack arranged for a favorable Ukrainian television network to record the event and live-stream it back to Ukraine.
This mock hearing, unheard of previously in the annals of U.S. influence peddling, was an attempt to manipulate democratic resources to the benefit of what can only be the proprietors of one ‘Interconnection Commerce S.A.’ According to official filings at the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, the former congressman has been retained to raise awareness of “…corruption within the National Bank of Ukraine.”
It is as yet unclear who Interconnection Commerce S.A. actually represents (Interconnection lists an address in the British Virgin Islands and shows up in the Panama Paper leaks but otherwise has no online presence). One might wonder if Mr. Mack has checked on the safety of his client, given the terrible hurricanes that recently ripped through the Virgin Islands.
Alternatively, sources point to a Ukrainian business oligarch with a political grievance towards Ms. Hontareva and motives to besmirch the reputation of its targets through influencers in Washington. In-step and at Mack’s side, fellow attendee Serhiy Taruta explicitly asked that the United States sanction Hontareva and freeze her assets. Any serious policy-maker would laugh out loud at this absurd request.
The attempt to convince Ukrainian citizens that a formal U.S. hearing was held in Washington, and that a genuine heroine of reform is herself corrupt, is spectacularly false and an unethical misrepresentation of Connie Mack’s position, here leveraging his former congressional seat to the benefit of the highest bidder and an abuse of influence, literally in the halls of Congress. Why and for whom he was willing to risk so much for so little is a question we seek to answer.