Barack Obama campaigning for Raila Odinga in 2006
Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga – who Barack Obama helped place in office in a power-sharing agreement in 2008 after supporters of Odinga’s losing presidential campaign sparked deadly rioting – has hired a Washington, D.C.-based, Democratic Party-oriented consulting firm in another bid for the East African nation’s presidency, according to WND sources.
Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, or GQR, has been in Kenya since March working for Odinga, according to a Kenyan political operative who has asked not to be identified for security purposes.
A Kenyan blogger claims to have seen a GQR presentation in which the firm claimed that if Kenya’s presidential election were held today, Odinga would only get 41 percent of the vote, 10 points short of the constitutional requirement.
Odinga, long a self-proclaimed communist, received his college education in East Germany and named his first-born son Fidel.
GQR did not return a WND call asking for comment. Odinga is not listed as a client on the firm’s website.
It’s not the first time Odinga has hired U.S. political public relations assistance.
In November 2007, Fox News contributor and former Bill Clinton adviser Dick Morris was deported from Kenya by the government of President Mwai Kibaki after he showed up in Nairobi and gave a televised press conference with Odinga. Morris announced that he had been retained as a political consultant to advise Odinga on the last month of his 2007 presidential campaign.
The Democratic Party orientation of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner as a research and consulting firm is made clear from the creation of its sister company GCS, a political campaign research and consulting firm. GCS is an acronym based on the last names of the principals – Stanley Greenberg of GQR, former Bill Clinton adviser James Carville and former John Kerry presidential campaign adviser Bob Shrum.
Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is known for having lived for five years rent-free in an apartment owned by Greenberg and his wife, Connecticut Democratic Rep. Rosa De Lauro, despite the extensive ties between Greenberg’s firm and the Democratic Party
Odinga’s ties to Obama
Odinga, a fellow Luo tribesman to Obama, was appointed prime minister in April 2008 only after he lost the December 2007 presidential election.
The decision to create the extra-constitutional “co-head of state” position of prime minister for Odinga was devised by Obama, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and then-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The purpose was to stop the wave of tribal rioting and machete-wielding violence against members of the rival Kiduyu tribe in January and February 2008 that arose as Luo members charged their candidate was a victim of voter fraud.
The tribal violence ultimately left 1,000 dead and about a half-million homeless. Some 800 Christian churches were destroyed or burned to the ground, without a single mosque being damaged.
WND reported the existence of a strategy document developed by Obama and Odinga during Obama’s 2006 senatorial “fact-finding” trip to Kenya. It called for Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement, or ODM, to exploit tribal tensions should Odinga lose the 2007 presidential challenge, as a means of keeping alive his aspiration to be Kenyan head of state.
During the 2006 trip, Obama campaigned so openly for Odinga that Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua went on Kenyan television on behalf of Kenyan President Kibaki to object that Obama was meddling inappropriately in Kenyan politics, as WND reported.
Odinga attracted Muslim votes through a secret Memorandum of Understanding with Muslim Sheik Abdullah Abdi, the chief of the National Muslim Leaders Forum of Kenya. In the memo, Odinga promised to rewrite the Kenyan constitution to install Shariah as law in “Muslim declared regions,” elevate Islam as “the only true religion” and give Islamic leaders “oversight” over other religions, establish Shariah courts and ban Christian proselytism.
WND further reported documentary evidence that Obama contributed nearly $1 million to the ODM in support of Odinga’s 2007 presidential campaign, recorded in an ODM campaign accounting document that listed the contribution as coming from “Friends of Senator BO.”
Also listed as financial contributors to Odinga’s 2007 presidential campaign were Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and his second oldest son, Saif el-Islam Gadhafi.
Should Odinga win the Kenyan presidency in 2012, it would presumably end the dual head-of-state configuration, with the position of prime minister created for Odinga in 2008 going dormant.
Republicans as ‘tea party extremists’
As WND previously reported, GQR played a role in creating the Democratic Party’s attack strategy in the 2010 mid-term elections.
“Affluent suburbs have gone more and more for Democrats over time, both off-year and presidentially,” Greenberg suggested in a National Journal panel June 12. “If you look at the economic numbers in the poll, those are voters who are seeing improvements, in their personal lives especially [and] will probably see it in the coming months. They also look at the tea party and the extremism of the Republican Party, and I think it further reinforces this trend.”
Providing insight into Obama administration attacks on insurance companies, banks, Wall Street and “big oil,” Greenberg stressed that he intended to focus his strategy for electing Democrats on mobilizing the “populist streak” he sees in the suburbs, where people “are angry at the companies, they’re angry at government, they’re angry at the insurance companies, they’re angry at the oil companies, they’re angry at Wall Street.”
He continued: “If Democrats understand that, then that’s the framing of this election, that fighting for the middle class and against these people and their greed and what they did to the country is a powerful concept.”
At the National Journal panel, Greenberg’s also supported Democratic Party efforts to portray Republicans as the party of “No” when he advised, “I’m watching the Republican Party. That negative image is a backdrop that allows Democrats to, at the end, pose a choice.”
In 2010, the GQR website declared, “For Democrats who need research and advice that shows them how to win, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner has the answer.”
That answer, paraphrasing from the GQR website, lies in sophisticated political public relations techniques that include micro targeting and segmentation, using the Internet and the latest research techniques to revolutionize the way voters get information and communicate with each other.
“We were involved in nine of the 26 Democratic pick-ups of Republican seats in 2008, as well as some of the most difficult defenses of Democratic sets,” the GQR website brags.
Architecting a Bolivian presidential election
WND has also reported GCS deployed a team of election advisors to Bolivia in 2004 to manage the presidential election campaign of controversial Bolivian politician Sánchez de Lozada,
“Former Bolivian president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada pulled off a remarkable electoral comeback by finishing first in Bolivia’s presidential elections on June 30,” noted a 2002 case study published on the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner website.
The case study pointed out Sánchez de Lozada had trailed by more than 10 points in the eleven-candidate field with less than one month to go, according to the public polls.
“Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research served as Sánchez de Lozada’s consultant on polling and strategy,” the study said, “and helped develop Sánchez de Lozada’s winning campaign message, which stressed solving Bolivia’s economic crisis by creating public works and jobs.”
Sánchez de Lozada won the general election with 22.4 percent of the vote, followed by former Cochabamba Mayor Manfred Reyes Villa with 20.9 percent, whom he defeated in a presidential run-off.
In 2003, Sánchez de Lozada was forced to resign the presidency after a series of economic protests were organized by Evo Morales, the current president of Bolivia. As head of the political party Movimento al Socialismo, or MAS, Morales had come in a near-tie for second place in the 2002 presidential election, having also received approximately 20.9 percent of the popular vote.
‘Our Brand is Crisis’
In 2005, filmmaker Rachel Boynton produced an award-winning documentary called “Our Brand is Crisis,” a title reminiscent of Rahm Emanuel’s oft-repeated admonition to “Let no crisis go to waste.”
Boynton got extensive inside accesses to film the consulting efforts of GCS advisers Greenberg, Rosner and Carville in Bolivia, recording their focus group sessions as well as their advice-giving sessions with Sánchez de Lozada during his 2002 campaign.
“Our Brand is Crisis” has received widespread critical acclaim for the cynical view exposed of public relations packaging of political candidates by political consultancy firms.
“The documentary ‘Our Brand is Crisis’ opens a window onto a troubling trend: the export of high-tech, American political consultants to countries around the world,” wrote film critic Jason Silverman in Wired.com. “Making the most of what seems like unlimited access to Goni and his advisers, director Rachel Boynton paints a portrait of a cold-blooded political campaign that’s more responsive to polling data than to the real needs of citizens.”
“What is remarkable about the film is the behind-the-scenes look at how these guys operate,” wrote Matt Stoller at My Direct Democracy, MYDD.com. “The firm is the Greenberg Carville Shrum group, and their cynicism and arrogance is laid bare as they use modern American marketing tools to play god in a country about which they clearly know nothing.”
In one of the film’s more memorable moments, Carville advises on camera, “A campaign is like intercourse – you never know when it’s going to peak.”
Helped reposition BP as a ‘green company’
WND has further reported that GQR advised oil giant BP, a role that became controversial when Obama criticized BP for mismanaging the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
The GQR website details a case study for BP in which the firm “helped BP plan and evaluate its successful re-branding campaign, focusing the company’s branding on energy solutions, including the development of solar and other renewable energy sources.”
The website further noted “Greenberg Quinlin Rosner’s work included extensive testing of advertising and evaluating the global response toward BP’s pioneering positions on the environment, climate change and energy efficiency.”
The GQR website bragged about results: “Greenberg Quinlan Rosner helped BP assess and strengthen its reputation globally and in selected countries, including an intensive campaign to strengthen the company’s profile in the U.S., culminating in BP rising to number 1 in the annual Fortune rankings for the sector.”
GQR’s research contributed to a $200 million advertising campaign in which British Petroleum attempted to shorten its name to BP and redesigned its corporate insignia to emphasize a “Beyond Petroleum” theme.
Critics have characterized the BP advertising campaign prompted by GQR research as “greenwashing,” a process in which corporations disingenuously cast themselves as part of an environmentally sensitive move toward alternative energies such as wind and solar generated electricity.