Yes, and a top Menendez advisor and a top Christie advisor too. What are the people who guide the political lives of the state’s top elected officials doing in a firm that works for an Islamist strongman like President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey? Once upon a time, there were campaign managers who came up through the ranks alongside the politicians whose careers they helped to manage.
In Great Britain, they call them election “agents” and this is how they once operated in this country too — wedded to the ups and downs of a particular political personality, often finding a job in the bureaucracy in between campaigns. From these manager/agents came the first campaign consultants. Regional or statewide at first, but with the centralizing power of the national committees and national money there soon came to be the “national” consultant — recommended by one of the party committees or put in place by them.
We recall a list, circa 1994, that the NRCC (National Republican Congressional Committee) gave out, with the names of those “recommended” media consultants and pollsters on it. There were about a dozen names in all. But as more money washed into DC and was funneled into campaigns, that changed. Consultants proliferated and firms became larger. Following the money, a few either merged with or morphed into public relations and lobbying (government relations) operations. Why not?
Corporations paid big for access to politicians and there is nobody politicians love more than the person who got them elected. It was only a matter of time that things went global. And that is how three New Jersey political operatives became members of an international firm representing the interests of the Turkish government. This firm itself is a subsidiary of an even larger international firm that handles the image-making for Russian President Vladimir Putin, receiving credit for, among other accomplishments, getting Putin’s face on the cover of Time magazine — as the “Person of the Year” for 2007. The three are Mo Butler, United States Senator Cory Booker’s campaign consultant, former chief of staff, and “longtime advisor”; Michael Soliman, United States Senator and former Chairman of the Senate Committee of Foreign Relations Robert Menendez’s political advisor and former State Director; and Michael DuHaime, Governor Chris Christie’s campaign consultant and someone who has worked on several Republican presidential campaigns. Two Democrats and a Republican. Their firm is called Mercury Public Affairs.
Began in 1999 as a decidedly Republican shop with connections to the RNC and politicians like John McCain and Mitt Romney, around 2013 it embarked on a mission to “diversify” — meaning making the firm “more bipartisan and full-service.” Mike DuHaime joined the firm in 2009, first as a “managing director” but swiftly rising to partner. Michael Soliman joined Mercury in 2013 and became a partner this year. Mo Butler joined as a “managing director” earlier this year. Mercury Public Affairs has 10 partners and 160 employees. Omnicom purchased Mercury in 2003. Mercury Public Affairs has 18 offices worldwide — including London; Mexico City; Washington, DC; New York; and Westfield, New Jersey. The New Jersey offices (a satellite operates out of Trenton) of Mercury are the haunt of Messrs. DuHaime, Soliman, Butler, and other connected operatives like “seasoned lobbyist” Connor Fennessy, newspaperman Darryl Isherwood (former top political reporter for the Star-Ledger and editor of PolitickerNJ), and “Christie campaign vet” Mark Mowers. Mowers, who testified before the Legislature’s BridgeGate inquiry, has recently joined the Trump campaign.
In January 2015, Michael Soliman registered with the United States Justice Department, pursuant to the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as a person representing the Embassy of the State of Qatar. You must have read about Qatar in the news…Amnesty International has accused Qatar of being complicit in human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Yes, slavery. In fact, in March of this year, the United Nations gave Qatar one year “to end migrant worker slavery” or face an international investigation. Qatar is just one of freedom’s garden spots represented by Mercury. Remember the controversy in Uganda, when the President of that country decided that homosexuality was a crime that should be punishable by death? Well, the law he wanted passed was “moderated” in December 2013, substituting life imprisonment for the death penalty. In 2015, Mercury was brought on to provide public relations, lobbying, and media monitoring services with regards to the Office of the President and the Ugandan government