Gelling

From Big Oil to Big Hair: Meet Donald Trump’s Controversial New Man

If you don’t believe in climate change and hate human rights, Donald Trump has a spokesman for you.

Photo Illustration by Sarah Rogers/The Daily Beast

Pre-requisites for joining Donald Trump’s campaign include but are not limited to: representing military juntas in D.C., using fake “volunteers” to push for the privatization of social security, and accepting money from ExxonMobil to deny the impacts of climate change.

At least that’s what worked for Trump’s newest hire: Jim Murphy, the former president of the lobbying shop DCI Group, which was responsible for all of the aforementioned shenanigans. Murphy came on board as the campaign’s new national political director on Monday, according to a report from The New York Times. He replaced an open space left by former Republican National Committee operative Rick Wiley who was abruptly cut from the operation at the end of May.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman and former traveling salesman for a murderer’s row of dictators, reportedly helped bring Murphy on board. Manafort did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast about the new hire. But it’s clear the two share an approach to politics—one that does not include a heavy dose of do-gooderism.

Murphy was a managing partner of the DCI Group from June 2002 until August 2007, according to his LinkedIn page. He went on to become the group’s president, serving until June 2012.

And during his tenure, DCI had some rather shady clients. Beginning in 2002, the firm began to represent in Washington The Union of Myanmar (Burma) State Peace & Development Council. DCI received a reported $340,000 for eight months’ worth spinning for the repressive military regime. For instance, DCI publicly pushed the U.S. to acknowledge the release of political prisoner and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi—while keeping quiet about the many others still kept under the junta’s boot.

The following year, The Boston Globe reported that former Burma CIA station chief Barry Broman began to work for DCI on Myanmar’s behalf to the tune of $5,000 a month. During that time, DCI unsuccessfully lobbied for Congress and the George Bush administration to get Burma certified as a partner in anti-narcotics efforts. This would have allowed the country to receive more economic aid from the United States. As part of its push to represent Myanmar in a positive light, DCI put out a series of news releases meant to showcase the country’s counter-narcotic efforts and to deny of the nation’s systemic rape of minority women.

Melvin Goodman, a former head of the CIA’s Soviet desk was quoted in The Boston Globe saying that Broman’s work for DCI “shows a lack of any notion of what ethical behavior is.”

The ties to Myanmar came back to haunt DCI members years after the fact. Douglas Goodyear, then CEO of DCI, resigned from John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008 (as the scandal resurfaced) as he was set to run the Republican National Convention. Goodyear did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast.

But that didn’t stop DCI from associating with repressive regimes. In 2012, the firm was hired for $20,000 a month by Azerbaijan to improve its public relations in the United States. The State Department referred to the country’s human rights record as “poor, especially with respect to freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, the administration of justice, and the respect of property rights.” The goal of the DCI-Azeri partnership was to highlight the country’s energy resources as a benefit for the United States.

Nor did DCI merely represent foreign boogeymen. In the 1990s, the firm famously publicized campaigns for fake “smokers’ rights groups” to fight against tobacco restrictions here in America. DCI represented the groups as grassroots efforts formed by cigarette-loving common folks. But they were, in fact, funded by major tobacco companies including R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris. Reynolds reported in 1990 that through these misleading efforts, it was successful in reinstating smoking rooms on the ground floor of a few hospitals.

During Murphy’s tenure as managing partner, DCI used a something of a similar approach to help amplify calls from the Bush administration to privatize Social Security. The Coalition for the Modernization and Protection of America's Social Security, commonly referred to as COMPASS, formed in 2005 and planned to spend up to $20 million on “grassroots” campaigns that were meant to influence local lawmakers. With an outfit called Progress for America, the campaign paid “volunteers” to be enthusiastic about privatizing social security. Together the organizations attempted to recruit people to speak highly of Bush’s plan throughout the nation. The pro-smoking effort, it was an effort to show grassroots fervor—when there wasn’t all that much. The privatization effort flopped.

In 2016, DCI was subpoenaed in a massive investigation of climate change denial funded by ExxonMobil. DCI represented Exxon from as far back as 2005 and created a now defunct website called Tech Central Station which was sometimes used to deny the effects of climate change. In 2006, DCI hosted a strategy meeting called “Strategic Discussion Regarding the Clean Air Act." It was meant to devise a plan to push back against laws that required reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. According to the invitation, it was sponsored by the Exxon-funded Heartland Institute.

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Murphy has not responded to a request for comment about his new role in the Trump campaign and neither has the campaign itself.

But for all they know, he may not be involved at all.

“Never heard of him,” Trump’s campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks told the AP when asked about the new hire.