U.S. Spin Pros Influence Ukrainian Politics

The influence of U.S. political advisors was evident in the Ukrainian parliamentary elections that took place this past weekend. Current President Viktor Yushenko has benefited from the services of a variety of U.S. political advisors, including Stan Greenberg, former pollster for Bill Clinton; Stephen E. Schmidt, campaign manager for California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger; and Neil Newhouse, who was a pollster for Mitt Romney during his tenure as governor of Massachusetts. Paul J. Manafort was charged with reforming the image of Yushenko opponent Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich from "shady reactionary and Kremlin pawn" to "arguably the nation's most popular politician." Manafort was a key advisor to former Senator Bob Dole in his failed presidential bid, and he is a partner in the lobbying firm Davis, Manafort & Freedman, Inc. While he has not been a public presence in the campaign, Manafort's "handiwork has been evident in Mr. Yanukovich's tightly organized campaign events, in his pointed speeches and in how he has presented himself to the world." Opponents have a more jaundiced view of the transformation. An advisor to former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko commented, "They are just packaging him in a new cover and educating him in some techniques to use. It's the same Soviet and post-Soviet political culture."