ARE NDI AND IRI STUDIES COMPLETELY INDEPENDENT?
26 July, 2012
ARE NDI AND IRI STUDIES COMPLETELY INDEPENDENT?

Irakli  Kakabadze  (liberali)

Today surveys published by NDI and IRI are much talked about in Georgia. It’s known that these NGOs are financed by the American Government and receive money from American International Agency. This is the reason why members of Saakashvili’s administration often say their methodology cannot be doubted and influencing them is excluded. This is partially true, but only partially. To demonstrate this, I’ll draw several facts that can quite officially be collected in accordance with

the Act of the Freedom of Information.

 

Let’s review these groups.

OrionStrategies LLC and Glover park group are Republican Party’s lobbyist organizations being in a very close relationship with Randi Shinneman, Senator McCain’s former assistant and one of his close friends. Shinneman has been lobbying Saakashvili for a long time. It’s everybody’s knowledge that Senator McCain is the most influential IRI member in foreign-political issues. Earlier he even was chairman of the organization. Shinneman is one of the most influential members of neo-conservative establishment and there is high probability to see him in Mitt Romney’s entourage. It’s a long time that these people have been setting foreign political priorities of the Republican Party.

It won’t be right to say that NDI and IRI are completely independent from their own parties’ mentality. Both of them are partisan NGOs and their policy is determined by the position of their own parties. Tbilisi offices certainly have some small independence in choosing personnel or other tactical issues but in strategic matters they adhere to the policy of their parties. In case of Republicans it implies more military politics but as for Democrats- it means more diplomatic and liberal methods. In the issues of foreign political priorities they both have almost identical position.

With regard to Democrats Saakashvili chose a rather wise policy. Beginning from 2004 he assigned a salary to Mr. Daniel Kunin who is well known to many of us. Daniel Kunin was one of the first directors’ of NDI office in Tbilisi. He is the son of  Madeleine Kunin, Democratic Party Governor of state of Vermont. Madeleine Kunin was Bill Climton’s ambassador to Switzerland; she is the Clintons’ close friend. Despite his young age  Dan Kunin enjoys big influence not only on NDI but the whole Democratic Party as well. Through him Saakashvili established close relations with now deceased Richard Holdbrook and big wigs of Clinton Administration. When commenting Saakashvili’s good relations with Hillary Clinton we shouldn’t forget Dan Kunin’s factor. When after losing 2008 war and Obama’s winning of elections Saakashvili found himself in bad situation, it was Kunin who help him hire several very influential Democratic lobbyist groups.

Podesta Group, Inc. is Toni Podesta’s company who is close relative of John Podesta, head of Bill Clinton’s former Office that is one of the most influential groups among Washington Democrats. Today John Podesta’s NGO determines many of Washington Democrats’ priorities. It’s certain that NDI can’t be beyond the sphere of its influence either.

Gephart Group Government Affairs is a lobbyist company of Richard Gephart , former leader of Democratic Party in the House of Representatives; it also has great influence in Washington and foreign political circles. Gephart is one of those who every year blocks the issue of recognition of Armenian genocide – he is working for the Turkish government as well and he can’t be defeated even by so strong an Armenian lobby. Even today Gephart enjoys much influence on shaping of America’s foreign policy – he is one of the most influential lobbyists in Democratic Party standing in the shade but in case of need he can defeat whole countries.

Thus, it’s been several years already that with the help of Dan Kunin Saakashvili influences American bosses of NDI. Certainly, this isn’t done by means of direct bribing – people involved in active politics can’t directly take money - it’s the lobbyists’ companies that take money; then they put the money in the money box of this or that politician asking in return to make a certain declaration or put a resolution for vote in Congress. Under neo-liberalism there is such a system of taking-and-giving.

Till the end of last year Georgian opposition as compared to Saakashvili paid no attention to this issue. Even now Ivanishvili’s lobbyist groups have many shortcomings and can’t work as smoothly as Saakashvili well-greased machine. For this reason it’s easy to explain why the companies hired by NDI and IRI have so close a political opinion with that of Saakashvili. It’s also easy to explain that as soon as Ivanishvili invited an Oxford University group the picture was radically different.

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