Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort departs from U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., Feb. 28. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

As reported in the Sept. 15 front-page article “With hardball tactics, lobbyist thrived in Washington swamp,” while the curtain has closed on Paul Manafort’s legal defense against federal criminal charges, the curtain has finally been raised on the workings of a sleazy profession headquartered in Washington that provides steady work and enormous financial returns for politically connected practitioners. And the industry is distinctly bipartisan.  

These American lobbyists, “drawn . . . from across the political spectrum, including pillars of the Washington and legal community like Mercury Public Affairs; the Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom law firm; and the now-defunct Podesta Group,” are engaged to support foreign political leaders or parties for the express purpose of influencing national elections in their own countries by attempting to shape American “public opinion” and influence elected American leaders.

In the case of the Ukrainian presidential election between Viktor Yanukovych and Yulia Tymoshenko, these efforts yielded an Oval Office meeting in May 2013 with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, in which a “former official delivered a message about Ukraine.”

Sanctioning Russian nationals and other foreigners for meddling in U.S. elections by hacking into political party servers and sowing discord during our political campaigns may be a necessary first step toward ridding our electoral system of foreign influence. But there’s little reason to believe this approach will succeed as long as U.S. law permits American lobbyists to influence national elections in foreign countries.

Steven Sarfatti, Cabin John