Advisor to Manafort and McCain now working for Latvian 'Social Democrat' party Saskaņa

Take note – story published 6 years ago

A new investigation by Re:Baltica, the Baltic Center for Investigative Journalism, has exposed an intriguing new bid for influence by the opposition Saskaņa (Harmony) party.

According to Re:Baltica, the party has recruited American lobbyist Christian Ferry to advise it in the run-up to October elections.

Ferry has previously worked as an advisor to U.S. Senator John McCain and before that worked as a strategic consultant at Davis Manafort, the lobbying company of former Trump aide Paul Manafort and Rick Davis which did work for Viktor Yanukovich, the former president of Ukraine who was ousted in 2014 by a popular revolution and fled to Russia.

Ferry says on the website of his company, the Trailblazer Group, that he "assists clients in developing and executing strategic communications and management plans to achieve their business and political goals."

Saskaņa leader and Riga Mayor Nils Ušakovs is the central figure in the connection between Washington lobbying firms and Latvian elections, according to Re:Baltica. During visits to Washington to meet with leading American politicians, Ušakovs is being promoted as “an impressive guy and a central figure in Latvian politics” while he himself emphasises his pro-western views.  

Saskaņa likes to describe itself as a 'Social Democrat' party despite holding socially conservative positions on many issues. It opposes recent reforms to make Latvian the main language of instruction in Latvian state-supported schools and uniquely among European social democrat parties, opposes ratification of the Istanbul Convention, a Council of Europe initiative that aims to reduce levels of violence against women. 

A few months ago, speaking alongside British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Ušakovs described Riga as "a showroom for social democratic policy."

Yet despite working for a  "social democrat" party at the moment, Ferry's usual alignment seems clearly to be with the right. 

In 2014 he served as the general consultant and strategist for the successful campaign to elect Juan Carlos Varela as President of tax haven Panama, and won an award for his effforts. 

A laudatory piece by Fox News hailed Ferry's genius during the campaign saying "Christian Ferry spent most of the past six months in the country designing speeches, organizing grassroots supporters and buying TV ads," which may give some idea of his intended methods with regard to Latvia. The same piece has Ferry claim he has worked in "half a dozen" different countries on similar campaigns.

Before that he worked on the re-election of Danilo Medina in the Dominican Republic and parliamentary elections in Guinea on behalf of the party of President Alpha Conde’s political party, Rassemblement du Peuple Guinéen (RPG) in 2013.

The size of the fees being charged by Ferry and the means by which Saskaņa pays them are not discussed in the investigation, but clearly Ferry believes he provides better value for money than recently-disgraced Cambridge Analytica.

It is not the first time a Latvian political party has sought outside help in the run-up to parliamentary elections. As reported previously by LSM, in the past a sister company of Cambridge Analytica was drafted in by a now-defunct party and recommended stoking inter-ethnic tensions.

You can read the full Re:Baltica story HERE or via the tweet below.


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