Obama and "Advisor B" Posted by: MichaelW
on Monday, January 26, 2009
Could there be some toxic spillover to the Obama Administration from the Blagojevich scandal? Even as Bob Woodward hints that the First Family may have some nanny/tax issues waiting in the tall grass, there may be another more dangerous figure looming in the bushes. His name is Frederick Yang, but until a few days ago a lot of people only knew him as "Advisor B":
A partner in a prominent, Washington-based political consulting firm is among those secretly recorded discussing ways Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich can cash in on President Barack Obama's old Senate seat. Frederick S. Yang, a top executive at Peter D. Hart Research Group Associates, is identified by prosecutors in the Blagojevich criminal complaint as "Advisor B," Michael D. Ettinger, a lawyer representing the governor's brother, said Thursday. Robert Blagojevich, who has not been charged with a crime, runs his brother's campaign fund.
The Hart firm has represented dozens of Democratic governors and members of Congress. The revelation that a key executive at the company was captured on FBI wiretaps working with the governor could embroil one of the nation's most respected and influential polling and consulting groups in the Blagojevich scandal.
When the transcripts of Balgojevich's clandestinely recorded statements were released back in December, I suggested that the identity of Advisor B would be pivotal to discovering whether the Obama team was at all involved in the Governor's games:
In addition to the very likely fact that Obama's office was co-ordinating with the Illinois Governor with respect to the Senate vacancy, the President-Elect's connection to so-called "Advisor B" may raise some uncomfortable questions. Advisor B promises to become a person of greater interest as this story unfolds, based on the following passage from the government's affidavit (at pg. 68) [HT: texasdarlin]:
On November 12, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH talked with Advisor B. ROD BLAGOJEVICH discussed with Advisor B his idea for a 501(c)(4) organization. Advisor B stated that he likes the idea, but liked the Change to Win option better because, according to Advisor B, from the President-elect’s perspective, there would be fewer “fingerprints” on the President-elect’s involvement with Change to Win because Change to Win already has an existing stream of revenue and, therefore, “you won’t have stories in four years that they bought you off.” ROD BLAGOJEVICH said that he likes the 501(c)(4) idea because he knows it will be there in two years when he is no longer Governor, whereas Change to Win might not be.
Advisor B is described earlier in the affidavit as "a Washington D.C.-based consultant" (pg. 60) with whom Blagojevich and his co-defendant assistant (John Harris) discussed a plan to trade favors with the President-Elect and the SEIU in exchange for the Governor appointing Obama's preferred candidate to his Senate seat
Now that we know who Advisor B is, the question becomes "what contacts does he have with the Obama team?" As it turns out, plenty.
Most directly, Paul Harstad is Obama's polling consultant. "During the 1980s he was senior vice president at Peter Hart Research and Garin-Hart Research in Washington, DC." That's not damning in and of itself, but it is significant. Even if there were no other connections to Obama, through Harstad, Yang had someone to reach out to on behalf of Blagojevich. However, Yang wasn't limited to Harstad.
The world of political consulting can be a bit murky. Not in a nefarious way (although that happens too), but in a business-building way. After all, you never know if an enemy of a client will need your services at some point. Indeed, Geoff Garin, one of Yang's partners, has worked for Republicans as well as Hillary Clinton:
The man that Hillary Clinton brought in to replace controversial strategist Mark Penn got his start in politics 32 years ago in Pennsylvania, the very state that is so crucial to her presidential hopes now. Back then, however, Geoff Garin was working for a Republican.
In the meantime, he has become one of the most well-regarded and sought-after Democratic pollsters, giving campaign advice to a host of Senators, including Illinois's Richard Durbin, New York's Charles Schumer, Vermont's Patrick Leahy and North Dakota's Kent Conrad. He also did work on Hillary Clinton's 2000 Senate campaign. "On the Democratic side," says one campaign veteran, "he is a totally trusted person."
According to reports, someone else with whom Garin is closely associated is David Axelrod, popularly referred to as Obama's Karl Rove (my emphasis):
The message seemed effective. Pollster Geoff Garin, president of Peter D. Hart Research Associates in Washington, which has worked with both of Axelrod's businesses, says his research showed that after the advertising campaign, ComEd customers were more supportive of a rate hike than customers served by other electric utilities elsewhere in Illinois.
Again, this information is not damning, but it does serve to tie Yang (as "Advisor B") closely to the Obama team. Not only did Yang have an inside man in Harstad, his partner and consulting firm were both associated with Obama's political guru, David Axelrod. It seems pretty clear that Yang spoke with authority when he said that "from the President-elect’s perspective, there would be fewer 'fingerprints' on the President-elect’s involvement with Change to Win because Change to Win already has an existing stream of revenue and, therefore, 'you won’t have stories in four years that they bought you off.'" And to top it all off, the job that Blagojevich was angling for with Yang's help was coming through a deal with the SEIU. And you'll never guess whom the SEIU depends upon for it's D.C. consulting services:
The union organization that figures in the complaint, Change to Win, is a 6 million-member coalition of unions that was started in 2005. Its members include the Service Employees International Union, the Teamsters and the United Farm Workers of America. Tom Balanoff, an official at SEIU's Local 1 in Chicago, has been identified as the SEIU official mentioned several times in the Blagojevich complaint, including being identified as "an emissary" for the appointment of Jarrett.
SEIU is listed as a client of Peter D. Hart Research, which has conducted surveys for Change to Win, according to a union news release.
At this stage it is very difficult to say whether or not the Obama team actually did anything wrong (or "inappropriate" to use Obama's term). In fact, it may turn out that Blagojevich did nothing legally improper, even if his every move stank to high heaven. It has become quite clear, however, that if there was something scandal worthy in the Obama teams machinations concerning his vacated Senate seat, Frederick "Advisor B" Yang will play a prominent role in ferreting out what that something was.
The Yang story should lead NBC Nightly News, but alas he is a mere Democratic consultant. Those poor guys, they have to murder their children in front of surveillance cameras in the parking lot of a 7/11 to get any attention.
Once again, it just proves the lie that the media is biased toward liberals. All a Republican consultant would have to do is take a call from Blagojevich, without saying anything at all — the mere existence of a phone call would be enough — and the coverage would be massive.
If Fitzgerald had a tape of The Clown™ telling Blagojevich, "I want you to sell the [Senate] seat for $1 million, and send me half," the news media would yawn (Keith Dimbulbermann would rage, "What kind of filth is this from Republicans to try to bring this heroic President down? Fire Fitzpatrick NOW!!!"), the Democrats would laugh and then yawn, no one but Fox News would cover thr story, and in a week people would say, "What tape? Of what, again?"