The opportunist president of Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko, is on a public relations binge in the United States. He thinks that if he can put a veneer on his vices, the United States will keep giving him money. But for someone who wants to clean up his image, Mobutu has chosen an odd PR team. He has been hobnobbing with a face from the past -- Tongsun Park, the central figure in the "Koreagate" congressional bribery scandal of 1976. And he has hired the premier Washington lobbying firm of the present -- Black Manafort Stone & Kelly, implicated in the Housing and Urban Development Department scandal. Mobutu may not have gravitated to the allies with the cleanest records, but he sure knows how to pick people who can peddle their influence. Before Park faded mercifully into obscurity in 1979, he admitted to giving American politicians nearly $1 million in campaign contributions to influence U.S. policy in South Korea. He escaped prosecution on bribery charges by ratting on the congressmen who took his gifts. Black Manafort counts some of the heaviest hitters in politics among its clientele, including President Bush and HUD Secretary Jack Kemp. The firm is so hot in Washington that even being roped into the HUD scandal has not slowed business. Paul Manafort, a partner in the firm, admitted to "influence peddling" to win HUD contracts for his clients, including a housing project in New Jersey that local officials called "a horrible waste of taxpayers' money." Since Manafort's admission of influence peddling, new clients have been beating down the firm's door. Mobutu already had a lobbyist, Edward Van Kloberg & Associates. But in July he signed a $1 million-a-year deal with Black Manafort anyway. When Manafort and Mobutu met to discuss business in July, Park was there. A spokeswoman for Black Manafort said Park had nothing to do with the public relations deal, but was at the meeting solely at Mobutu's invitation. Park appears to spend a lot of time as an ornament at Mobutu's meetings. When a congressional delegation traveled to Zaire in February, they were surprised to find the infamous Park hanging out at a reception hosted by Mobutu. "Our understanding was he had business interests there, but none of us knew what they were," one source in that delegation told our associate Scott Sleek. We made repeated calls to Park's office in Washington and to the Zairian Embassy to confirm the relationship of these strange bedfellows, but neither would talk to us. Any link with Park should be an embarrassment to Mobutu, except that Mobutu is a hard man to shame. He keeps coming back to Washington with his hand out, and Congress keeps filling that hand, in spite of the human rights abuses in Zaire and the inexplicable lack of progress by the country under his reign. Mobutu lives in style while his people starve. The Republican administration winks at Mobutu because he has been a cooperative ally in Africa, and those are in short supply. But some Democrats are fed up with paying for a corrupt and abusive dictatorship. Rep. Ronald V. Dellums (D-Calif.), is leading an uphill attempt to cut off U.S. aid to Zaire.