Roger Stone’s New Gig: Lobbying for Drone Strikes in Somalia
The Trump ally and notorious dirty trickster has a new, interesting, and somewhat dark influence-peddling assignment.
Veteran Republican operative and self-described “ratfucker” Roger Stone is advocating for military operations, including drone strikes, in Somalia on behalf of his first lobbying client in 17 years.
Stone recently disclosed that he had done lobbying work for a Buffalo-area company that acts as a middleman for the sale of African livestock to clients around the world. In his disclosure form, he formally said that he is pressing for “commodity rights and security” in Somalia and working on issues related to economic policy and commodity trading.
But in text messages with The Daily Beast, Stone suggested that his work for the company—investment firm Capstone Financial Group—has focused on U.S. military and foreign policy as well.
The goal, he said, is to achieve a more stable security situation in Somalia that will allow his client to more freely conduct business in that country. And that, he said, calls for an aggressive U.S. military posture.
“Capstone interests are in stability. Their business interests in the county can not be realized [if] the country is war torn,” Stone said. “The Al Queda off-shoot [sic] Al Shabaab is quite violent and deadly. The topography of Somalia unlike Afghanistan lends itself to a successful drone based US campaign against the insurgency.”
Despite a rich history in electoral politics and the influence industry, Stone hasn’t registered to lobby the federal government since 2000 when he represented the company of his longtime confidante and future president, one Donald Trump. Stone’s work for Capstone began in May 2017, as the Trump administration stepped up U.S military operations in Somalia, including a major escalation in drone strikes against insurgent groups in the country. The number of U.S. troops in Somalia has more than doubled to over 500 since Trump took office.
Initial reports on Stone’s registration suggested that he may have flouted the legal timeline for disclosure of lobbying activity. But Stone insists that he disclosed that activity in a timely manner as required. He’s worked with Capstone since May, Stone told The Daily Beast. But, he added, reportable lobbying activity only began in November.
That lobbying itself was sparse, Stone said. It consisted only of “casual conversation on two occasions with a single member of Congress about the status of the insurgency and the security of Somalia.” Stone declined to specify which member of Congress with whom he spoke. But the offices of Reps. Chris Collins (R-NY) and Brian Higgins (D-NY), who represent the area of Buffalo/Western New York where Capstone is based, both denied that they had been lobbied by Stone.
Capstone and its chief executive, a prominent investor and Hillary Clinton donor named Darin Pastor, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. But the firm’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission suggest that it has significant business interests in Somalia.
In late 2016, it inked multiple deals with unidentified suppliers to sell sheep and cattle to customers in countries including the gulf nation of Oman. Though it redacted the names of its suppliers, the filings mentioned they were based in Africa, and one in particular suggested a Somali seller by alluding to the drought that ravaged the country from 2015 until last year.
“Investors should be aware that the opportunities we are pursuing in the livestock trading and minerals industries tend to be exceptionally high-risk,” the company said in a filing in late 2016.
Capstone seems to be an obscure client for an operative with Stone’s high profile. But the company also has interesting geographic ties. Somalia’s current president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, lived in the Buffalo area, and worked for New York state government, before returning to his native country to run for the office he now occupies.
The Somali government’s official U.S. lobbying firm, Park Strategies, also maintains a Buffalo office. That firm linked up with Mohamed by way of Joel Giambra, a Park Strategies VP and former Erie County executive who on Wednesday announced a New York gubernatorial run. Giambra and Mohamed became good friends while the latter worked in New York’s department of transportation, according to John Zagame, another Park Strategies VP who works on the Somalia account.
Zagame said he wasn’t familiar with Stone’s work on the issue, but welcomes all efforts to improve the security situation in Somalia. “You’d like to see Somalia stabilized enough to receive some foreign investment,” Zagame told The Daily Beast. “They are resource rich, but what company is going to go into a situation where your people aren’t safe?”
Lasting security there, Zagame noted, will require the training of Somali forces more than the drone strike campaigns to which Stone alluded. But any help in bringing Somali security issues to the attention of U.S. policymakers is welcome.
“I don’t know what Roger Stone is doing,” Zagame said. “Whatever he’s doing, if it can help, more power to him.”