Thursday, May 25, 2017

Bodyslam defending Gianforte flack Shane Scanlon works for firm tied to Manafort & Trump scandal

(Editor's note: It's late and this is a breaking story, so it's mostly going to be copy-and-paste job from multiple sources. One reason that no other journalists seem to be making this connection is that many of them might rely on Shane Scanlon or other strategists from Mercury for scoops. Mercury claims to be a bi-partisan lobbying and public relations firm, but it obviously leans towards the right. However - and, of course - most D.C. based P.R. firms usually have at least a few agents and clients from the other side of the aisle. Also, I wouldn't trust any of the reporters tied to the "bodyslam" story, especially anyone who works for Buzzfeed.)

The spokesman for a Montana Congressional candidate - who was arrested on election eve after allegedly bodyslamming a reporter for aggressively asking a healthcare related question - works for a lobbying firm that did undisclosed lobbying for a pro-Russian Ukrainian party with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort's colleague, Rick Gates.

However, Shane Scanlon wasn't hired by Mercury LLC until last December - five years after the Ukrainian lobbying - and the head of the firm, former Republican Congressman Vin Weber, didn't endorse Trump.

Last night, Alicia Acuna reported for Fox News, "The race to fill Montana's sole seat in the U.S. House of Representatives took a violent turn Wednesday, and a crew from the Fox News Channel, including myself, witnessed it firsthand."

"As part of our preparation for a story about Thursday's special election to air on 'Special Report with Bret Baier,'...I joined field producer Faith Mangan and photographer Keith Railey in Bozeman for our scheduled interview with [GOP candidate Greg] Gianforte," but, during "small talk...another man — who we now know is Ben Jacobs of The Guardian — walked into the room with a voice recorder, put it up to Gianforte's face and began asking if he had a response to the newly released Congressional Budget Office report on the American Health Care Act," Acuna adds. "Gianforte told him he would get to him later. Jacobs persisted with his question. Gianforte told him to talk to his press guy, Shane Scanlon."
"At that point, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, 'I'm sick and tired of this!'

Jacobs scrambled to his knees and said something about his glasses being broken. He asked Faith, Keith and myself for our names. In shock, we did not answer. Jacobs then said he wanted the police called and went to leave. Gianforte looked at the three of us and repeatedly apologized. At that point, I told him and Scanlon, who was now present, that we needed a moment. The men then left.

To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte, who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff's deputies.
Gianforte spokesman Shane Scanlon released a statement blaming the "liberal journalist", full of claims that don't seem to align with the recorded audio, and not even mentioning the body slam: "Tonight, as Greg was giving a separate interview in a private office, The Guardian's Ben Jacobs entered the office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg's face, and began asking badgering questions. Jacobs was asked to leave. After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg's wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground. It's unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ."

"As for myself and my crew, we are cooperating with local authorities," Acuna added for FOX NEWS. "Gianforte was given a citation for misdemeanor assault and will have to appear in court sometime before June 7."

On December 19, 2016, a press release announced, "Mercury, a leading global, bipartisan public strategy firm, announced today the expansion of its Montana presence with the launch of an office in Helena, and the addition of Shane Scanlon, who will serve as Vice President."
"Mr. Scanlon previously worked as a senior advisor and communications director for the Montana Republican Party. He played a leading role in the party's successful 2016 campaign cycle, which saw the MT GOP win four of the five statewide races, giving Republicans control of the Land Board for the first time since 1928. In 2014, Scanlon served as a senior member of the communications team for the Steve Daines for U.S. Senate campaign. That race, identified as one of the most competitive in the nation for the midterms, helped Republicans regain control of the U.S. Senate. Prior to his involvement in Montana politics, Scanlon worked in the U.S. Senate for Senator John Thune (R-SD), holding positions on the Senate Republican Policy Committee and the Senate Republican Conference.

Mercury began its work in Montana in 2014, following the additions of Rehberg and Baker. The firm has worked on a host of core policy issues statewide, including work in healthcare, agriculture, energy & natural resources, telecommunications, education and defense.

Scanlon started his tenure with Mercury December 1st."
"Mercury is a high-stakes, bipartisan public strategy firm," the press release claims. "The firm provides a comprehensive suite of services that includes federal government relations, international affairs, digital influence, public opinion research, media strategy and a bipartisan grassroots mobilization network in all 50 states."

It adds, "Our firm is not just led by top talent — we distinguish ourselves by having senior talent deeply engaged in each project from start to finish, a promise we keep to clients. The firm has an established global presence, with U.S. offices in Washington, DC, New York, California, New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Tennessee, as well as international offices in London and Mexico City. Mercury is a part of the DAS Group of Companies."

On August 17, 2016, the Associated Press exclusively reported, "Donald Trump’s campaign chairman helped a pro-Russian governing party in Ukraine secretly route at least $2.2 million in payments to two prominent Washington lobbying firms in 2012, and did so in a way that effectively obscured the foreign political party’s efforts to influence U.S. policy."

"The revelation, provided to The Associated Press by people directly knowledgeable about the effort, comes at a time when Trump has faced criticism for his friendly overtures to Russian President Vladimir Putin," Jeff Horwitz and Desmond Butler reported. "It also casts new light on the business practices of campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

They note, "Under federal law, U.S. lobbyists must declare publicly if they represent foreign leaders or their political parties and provide detailed reports about their actions to the Justice Department" and that "[a] violation is a felony and can result in up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000."

"Manafort and business associate Rick Gates, another top strategist in Trump’s campaign, were working in 2012 on behalf of the political party of Ukraine’s then-president, Viktor Yanukovych.

People with direct knowledge of Gates’ work said that, during the period when Gates and Manafort were consultants to the Ukraine president’s political party, Gates was also helping steer the advocacy work done by a pro-Yanukovych nonprofit that hired a pair of Washington lobbying firms, Podesta Group Inc. and Mercury LLC.

The nonprofit, the newly created European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, was governed by a board that initially included parliament members from Yanukovych’s party. The nonprofit subsequently paid at least $2.2 million to the lobbying firms to advocate positions generally in line with those of Yanukovych’s government.
"That lobbying included downplaying the necessity of a congressional resolution meant to pressure the Ukrainian leader to release an imprisoned political rival," the AP story added. "The lobbying firms continued the work until shortly after Yanukovych fled the country in February 2014, during a popular revolt prompted in part by his government’s crackdown on protesters and close ties to Russia."

On May 11, 2017, Bloomberg BNA's Kenneth P. Doyle noted that "two major Washington, D.C., consulting firms, the Podesta Group Inc. and Mercury Public Affairs LLC, filed FARA registrations last month regarding work they did in 2012 related to Ukraine."

Doyle continues, "The registrations followed news reports in recent months that the Ukraine advocacy work was arranged by another former Trump adviser, Paul Manafort, and that the arrangement may have been intended to avoid revealing the involvement of a pro-Russia Ukrainian political party, which was seeking to improve its image with U.S. officials."

"Manafort hasn’t registered separately as a foreign agent for the Ukraine-related work, but he was listed in the new FARA disclosure documents filed by Mercury Public Affairs as participating in meetings along with Weber. The two met in 2012 and 2013 with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), former Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) and others, the disclosure said.


The DOJ has brought only seven criminal FARA cases in the last 50 years, according to the DOJ’s inspector general. The department also has the ability to seek injunctive relief to achieve compliance with the law but hasn’t done so since 1991."

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