Sometime in 1980, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone join two associates in launching a D.C. political influence firm nicknamed “the torturers’ lobby” for representing a group of brutal dictators from around the world.
The firm — Black, Manafort, Stone, & Kelly (BMSK) — goes on to have close ties to the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. Manafort, along with buddy Roy Cohn, was a “Reagan political operative.” Charles Black, another partner at the firm, works on all three Reagan campaigns and becomes a senior campaign consultant for Bush in the late ’80s. Some say he’s worked on every Republican presidential campaign since 1972.
For their work at home in the U.S., the duo operate a second firm: Black, Manafort, Stone & Atwater (BMSA). That firm goes on to help elect Republican politicians like Phil Gramm and Jesse Helms.
This paragraph from a 1986 Time article depicts their political power pretty well up to that year:
Charles Black, 38, was a top aide to Senator Robert Dole and the senior strategist for President Reagan’s re-election campaign in 1984. Paul Manafort, 36, was the political director of the 1984 G.O.P. national convention. Roger Stone, 33, was the Eastern regional campaign director for Reagan in 1984 and is now one of Congressman Jack Kemp’s chief political advisers. Peter Kelly, 48, was finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 1981 to 1985. Lee Atwater, 34, was Reagan’s deputy campaign manager in 1984 and is now Vice President George Bush’s chief political adviser. Alone among the firm’s partners, Atwater sticks to advising electoral candidates and does not lobby.
Their work on behalf of dictators lengthens wars for decades, and they are responsible for helping perpetrate sexual slavery, forced labor, and tens of thousands of deaths overseas in the ’80s alone.
A 1992 report from the Center for Public Integrity lists BMSK as one of the firms profiting the most by doing business with foreign governments that violate their people’s human rights.
Manafort first began working as a lobbyist and consultant for foreign powers in the 1970s, according to a Senate investigation that wrapped up in 2020.
As early as 1973, Manafort was working in Lebanon on behalf of a construction company to get business in Saudi Arabia.
The company was originally named Black, Manafort & Stone. Kelly joined in 1984.
https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/sites/default/files/documents/report_volume5.pdf (page 32)
Agents of Influence, Simon and Schuster. pp. 307
Photo: Harry Naltchayan/The Washington Post