The Hartford area’s Ukrainian-American community, including members of three church congregations in New Britain, is speaking out against a city native with a well-known name among Republicans — Paul Manafort, the son of a former mayor, longtime Washington lobbyist and now campaign manager for the GOP’s unlikely frontrunner, Donald J. Trump.
With Tuesday’s Connecticut Primary just ahead, local Ukrainian Americans are calling on the Trump campaign to dismiss Manafort for his representation of and campaign work for Victor Yanukovych, the former president of the Ukraine, whose regime is reported to have “ordered the shootings of more than 100 Ukrainian protestors” and “who stole tens of billions of dollars from Ukraine before fleeing to Russia.”
Residents calling for Manafort to exit the Trump campaign assert that Manafort and his colleagues “have made tens of millions of dollars representing some of the world’s most brutal dictators of the 20th century.” One press report has dubbed Manafort a member of the “torturers’ lobby.”
An impromptu protest against the Trump hire of Manafort was held on Saturday, April 23rd near the entrance to the Route 9 Tadeusz Kosceiuszko Highway and Paul Manafort Drive (named for the lobbyist’s late father) near Central Connecticut State University. A group of Ukrainian-Americans held up signs in protest such as “Shame on Putin, Shame on Manafort, Shame on Trump” and “Manafort’s Client Killed 104 Heroes.” Ukrainian Americans fear Trump’s anti NATO position and praise of Russia’s Vladimir Putin will jeopardize the Ukraine’s fledgling democracy.
A statement released by the ad hoc group led by Alex Kuzma stated:
“Throughout his career Paul Manafort’s work overseas has been in direct conflict with the foreign policy interests of the United States and its allies, yet Manafort is now working to help influence the future of the highest office of the United States, pushing for a candidate who is more on message with Russian President Putin than our current U.S. President and member of Congress on both sides of the aisle.”
Manafort, 66, has long been involved in national GOP politics and a partner in K Street lobbying firms such as Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly and more recently Davis, Manafort. Through the years he has been among highly compensated U.S. consultants working for foreign leaders with a record of human rights violations and whose policies have contradicted U.S. foreign policy.
Local Republicans appear unfazed by Manafort’s foreign adventures. In a New Britain Herald story on the the Trump-Manafort connection, former New Britain Mayor and current Chamber of Commerce President Timothy Stewart said of Manafort: “He’s a go-to guy as a Republican operative and he has been for many years. ‘PJ’ is the man. He knows the players.”
A 2014 Politico story –“Mystery Man: Ukraine’s U.S. Fixer”– described Manafort’s roles as presidential operative and consultant to dictators:
Over three decades in Washington, Manafort built a storied career as a Beltway man of mystery: a famously discreet operative who worked for Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, steered the 1996 GOP convention and built not one but two white-shoe D.C. lobbying shops, a pair of firms that bore Manafort’s name and catered to an eclectic stable of clients including anti-communist Angolan rebels and Ferdinand Marcos, the dictator of the Philippines.
Last month Manafort re-surfaced as Trump’s delegate fixer and liaison to the Republican establishment. After a long hiatus, Manafort is back on U.S. soil managing Trump’s campaign just like he did for Ukraine’s Yanukovych and others with disturbing records of human rights violations.