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更新时间:2017-9-5 20:50:23 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

How to Get Rich in Trump’s Washington

Stryk was having his own qualms. Lewandowski had beaten him on some pitches, Stryk was told by prospective clients, by promising that he could get Trump on the phone — a promise Stryk felt he could not make. ‘‘We don’t sell access to Trump,’’ he told me. ‘‘I don’t know Donald Trump.’’ He was increasingly impatient with the notion that he was simply providing entree to the new administration. He was in negotiations to acquire a small design and branding firm. He saw S.P.G. evolving into something bigger and more stable, a full-service ‘‘advisory’’ company that could compete with the most sophisticated shops on K Street — and beyond. Stryk saw Lewandowski’s firm, and some of the others associated with the new administration, as short-term plays. They could sell access or surf the disruption, but he aimed to outlast it. ‘‘Do they have business outside of this Trump phenomenon?’’ Stryk mused. ‘‘The talk around town is, how long does this last before the business goes back to the establishment?’’


Among the new arrivals, Ballard, at least, was doing pretty well. After only a few months in Washington, he had signed up more than 30 clients: energy companies, insurers, Amazon, American Airlines. The new Washington office would soon be on track to make $15 million in 2017, almost as much as his firm reported making in Florida last year. Ballard, unlike some of his competitors, was at ease in the swamp. He didn’t want to beat the Washington establishment; he was here to join it. ‘‘There’s no big firm that should worry about us,’’ Ballard told me. ‘‘We augment other people, or they augment us. The Trump guys are not going to take over the town.’’

至少在后来者当中,巴拉德做得相当不错。到华盛顿仅数月后,他就拉到了30多个客户:有能源公司和保险公司,还有亚马逊(Amazon)和美国航空(American Airlines)。华盛顿办公室2017年的收入很快就会达到1500万美元,几乎与他在佛罗里达的公司去年的收入相当。不同于他的一些竞争者,巴拉德在这片沼泽中悠然自得。他并不想打败华盛顿建制势力;他来这里是为了加入它们。“大公司用不着防着我们,”巴拉德告诉我。“我们来促进别人,或别人来促进我们。特朗普的人不可能一手遮天。”

If anything, the Trump guys were learning the downsides of proximity to the president. By spring, the Justice Department had appointed a special counsel to probe Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, an investigation that would quickly reach into the president’s inner circle. The various White House factions seemed to spend as much time planting negative press on one another as they did figuring out what the president should do. When the White House got involved in big legislative battles, like the Obamacare repeal effort, it tended to hurt, not help.


Proximity was proving an especially mixed blessing for Lewandowski. A stream of news stories had detailed promises he was supposedly making to clients, which he mostly denied — not just phone calls with Trump but also visits with White House officials and even access to Trump’s Twitter account. In late April, Politico reported that Lewan­dowski and Bennett also owned another, separate company called Washington East West Political Strategies. This new firm, a vehicle for overseas consulting, had circulated at least one written proposal promising to arrange meetings with Trump and other administration officials, seeming to undercut Lewandowski’s earlier denials. I later obtained a copy of the proposal, which named the potential client: Edi Rama, Albania’s Socialist prime minister. The new firm — or as Bennett later explained, a business associate in Europe, acting without authorization — had pitched opposing candidates in the same campaign.

事实证明,对莱万多夫斯基来说,与特朗普的亲密关系是一把双刃剑。一大波媒体报道详细描述了种种据信由他向客户做出的承诺——其中大多数都被他否认了——不仅是安排客户与特朗普通电话,还有拜访白宫官员,甚至是在特朗普的推文中现身。《政治人》(Politico)网站于4月末报道称,莱万多夫斯基和贝内特还拥有另一家公司,名叫华盛顿东西政治战略(Washington East West Political Strategies)。作为海外咨询业务的载体,这家新公司至少分发了一份书面企划案,承诺安排与特朗普以及其他政府官员通电话。这似乎让莱万多夫斯基早前的否认少了一些可信度。我后来拿到了该企划案的一份副本,上边有潜在客户的名字:身为社会党(Socialist)党员的阿尔巴尼亚总理埃迪·拉马(Edi Rama)。这家新公司——或者如贝内特所解释的那样,是在欧洲运营的一个未经授权的商业伙伴——还向在同一场竞选中互为对手的候选人做过自我推销。

Official Washington professed itself to be aghast at Lewandowski, who did not bother to couch his sales pitches in the Beltway’s customary euphemisms: He was what they pretended not to be. Ethics watchdogs cast him as living proof of the hollowness of Trump’s campaign promise to ‘‘drain the swamp.’’ Lewandowski disagreed. In his view, the swamp was the sprawling, unresponsive bureaucracy, not the people you paid to help you get your phone calls returned. Still, friends of Lewandowski’s told me that White House officials had advised him to keep a lower profile.


By that point, it was hard to know exactly how well Avenue was doing. As the summer recess drew near, the firm had disclosed fewer than 10 lobbying clients. Among them were a San Diego-based environmental consulting firm and an Ohio payday lender — valuable clients, but not quite blue-chip. For every Whirlpool that asked Lewandowski for help, his rivals told me, there was another big company that decided he was too radioactive. Lockheed never actually signed a contract with Avenue; when news leaked of Lewandowski’s role in advising it on Trump, a Lockheed spokesman issued a carefully worded statement that ‘‘Lockheed has not retained Lewandowski, or his lobbying firm.’’ In the same way that most big chief executives turned up their noses at Trump during the campaign but now hoped he would deliver tax reform and sweeping deregulation, they wanted Lewandowski’s help without being too closely associated with him.


Then, too, Lewandowski’s clout wasn’t always what he promised. Puerto Rico’s government, for example, hired Avenue to help ease the island’s fiscal crisis. But the job pitted Lewandow­ski against a coalition of hedge funds that owned much of Puerto Rico’s debt, and whose former lobbyist Trump had installed on his National Economic Council. The swamp’s old guard prevailed: In late April, as Puerto Rican officials were begging Congress for more federal funding, Trump publicly dismissed their cause in his trademark fashion. ‘‘Democrats are trying to bail out insurance companies from disastrous #ObamaCare, and Puerto Rico with your tax dollars,’’ Trump tweeted. ‘‘Sad!’’

还有,莱万多夫斯基能起的作用并不总像他所承诺的那么大。例如,波多黎各政府曾聘用大道战略帮助纾解该岛的财政危机。但这份工作让莱万多夫斯基站到了一个对冲基金联盟的对立面,该联盟持有波多黎各的债务,以前为其服务的游说者已被特朗普安排进国家经济委员会(National Economic Council)。华盛顿沼泽的老卫士占了上风:4月末,当波多黎各政府官员乞求国会批准更多联邦拨款时,特朗普以其标志性的风格公开驳斥了他们的诉求。“民主党人正试图用你们纳税人的钱去救助掉进#奥巴马医保这个火坑的保险公司,还要救助波多黎各,”特朗普发推说。“可悲!”

In a sense, Lewandowski’s biggest problem was the president himself. Lewandowski had bet that the White House would be the center of energy and action in Trump’s Washington, but instead the Trump administration was being swallowed by its own chaos. Divided by factions and backbiting, unable to wield full control of the bureaucracy or execute on many of its own ambitions, the administration was in danger of becoming a minor player in the policy debates of the day. Many companies were coming to the conclusion that on complex issues like tax reform, their energies were better directed at lawmakers on Capitol Hill — and their money better spent at the traditional lobbying firms stocked with ex-lawmakers and their former aides.


Moreover, despite Trump’s campaign pledges, many of the agencies he now oversaw had proved more than friendly to the legions of longtime Beltway lobbyists working for the energy, telecommunications and other industries. In many cases, Trump had hired them outright: By the summer, he had appointed more than 100 lobbyists to jobs in the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department, the Federal Communications Commission and elsewhere. Their old clients didn’t need much help from the new Trump guys on K Street. They already knew exactly whom to call.

此外,尽管特朗普在竞选期间做出过承诺,但事实证明,他眼下统领的很多机构,对首都其来有自的服务于能源、电信等行业的说客军团并不仅仅是友好。在很多情况下,特朗普直接雇用了他们:截至今夏,他已经把超过100名说客安排进了环境保护局(Environmental Protection Agency)、内政部(Interior Department)、联邦通信委员会(Federal Communications Commission)等机构。他们的老客户不太需要K街上那些新得势的特朗普的人帮忙。他们已确切知道该给谁打电话。

Perhaps that’s why the traditional lobbying shops were doing just fine. As for protecting clients from Trump’s Twitter howitzer — well, that had turned out to be easier than it looked, several lobbyists told me: Just show up in person, promise the president you’ll create some jobs and publicly give him the credit. ‘‘You make it about Trump and you link it to jobs, and you could be Russia or China and he will support you,’’ one told me. ‘‘It is that unsophisticated.’’


Lewandowski’s office, when I finally got to see it, turned out to be a cramped room with scuffed yellow walls. His desk held a couple of commemorative Trump pens and a warm can of Monster energy drink. A new whiteboard, still in its wrapping, leaned against one wall; a carry-on suitcase leaned against another. I could see the White House, but only if I leaned over his desk and craned my neck.


‘‘There it is,’’ Lewandowski said, a little halfheartedly, pointing out the window. His day had not gotten off to a great start. That morning, Puerto Rico had filed for a territorial version of bankruptcy. A prominent watchdog group had sent a letter to the Justice Department asking officials there to investigate why Lewandowski had never registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a World War II-era law that imposes stringent disclosure requirements on Americans representing foreign governments in Washington. (Though Bennett and other Avenue employees had registered as lobbyists, Lewandowski insisted that most of his business was advising clients on strategy, not setting up meetings or contacting officials on their behalf, the kind of work that requires you to register.) Politico had struck again, revealing Avenue’s Citgo contract. Technically, the United States-based company was owned by the left-wing government of Venezuela, whose vice president the Trump administration had accused of drug trafficking.

“它就在那儿,”莱万多夫斯基边指向窗外,边有点儿心不在焉地说道。他的这一天没能有好的开头。当天早上,波多黎各地方政府申请破产。一家知名的监督机构致信司法部,提请其官员调查莱万多夫斯基为何从未依照《外国代理人登记法》(Foreign Agents Registration Act)进行登记——那部二战时代的法律就华盛顿的外国政府代理人应该披露的信息做了严格的规定。(贝内特及大道战略的其他雇员以说客的身份做了登记,但莱万多夫斯基坚称,他的大部分业务是为客户提供战略咨询服务,而非作为代理人安排他们与官员会面或取得联络,做那样的工作才需要登记。)《政治人》网站再度发难,披露了大道战略与Citgo签订的合约。位于美国的Citgo公司,实际上为委内瑞拉左翼政府所有,特朗普政府曾指控该国副总统走私毒品。

Lewandowski told me he didn’t work directly for foreign governments, notwithstanding the stories and documents. Not that he wouldn’t be good at it — you know, if he wanted to. ‘‘I don’t work for foreign governments, but if I were a foreign government, and I wanted to hire people who understood how to get to the president, there are a small number of people I would think of,’’ Lewan­dowski said. As he spoke, he seemed to recover his familiar brio. ‘‘The establishment is so afraid of President Trump they will do anything. Which includes hiring individuals who have purported to be tied to the White House who really aren’t.’’


The next day, Lewandowski announced he was quitting Avenue. In a lengthy interview with Bloomberg, he explained that Bennett and their employees had been using his name to drum up business he didn’t want, exposing him to criticism and sullying his reputation. He insisted he had never asked Trump for anything. ‘‘People want to see me fail,’’ Lewandowski grumbled.


‘‘I feel bad for Corey,’’ Bennett told me when I went to see him the following week. ‘‘He didn’t do anything wrong. But he’s a lightning rod.’’ Bob Dole, he pointed out, had just signed a $500,000 contract for work on behalf of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a violence-racked country run by a kleptocratic strongman. But no one in Washington gave Bob Dole a hard time.

“我为科里感到难过,”下一周我去拜访贝内特时,他告诉我。“他没做错任何事,却成了众矢之的。”贝内特指出,鲍勃·多尔(Bob Dole)刚刚签了一份价值50万美元的合约,要代表刚果民主共和国这个由强人领袖统治、暴力肆虐的国家开展工作。但在华盛顿没有谁跟鲍勃·多尔过不去。

‘‘He thought he could go in’’ — into the White House — ‘‘during the second wave,’’ Bennett said of Lewandowski. K Street was just a way station for him, Bennett suggested, while he waited for the only job he truly wanted — the one he could picture when he gazed out his window, down Pennsylvania Avenue. ‘‘Looking back on it, he probably should never have owned a chunk of a lobbying firm. In the media’s mind, every client we had was Corey’s client.’’ But even with Lewandowski gone, Bennett said, there was plenty of work. ‘‘All of K Street is doing well right now,’’ he said. ‘‘Chaos is good for everyone’s business.’’


Lewandowski, I soon learned, hadn’t really left the swamp. He had merely receded into the nebulous ranks of Washington’s unregistered lobbyists. In July, he founded a new firm, Lewandowski Strategic Advisors. He offered clients ‘‘strategic advice and counsel,’’ according to a copy of one contract I obtained, and had picked up at least one client from Avenue, the Ohio payday lender. He was back on TV more and more, energetically defending Trump and plumping for various private interests. At one point, I got a tip that he had been spotted in Taipei, Taiwan. He wouldn’t tell me what he was doing there, or for whom he was working — ‘‘I’m just a private citizen,’’ he texted — but weeks later, he tweeted about the Trump administration’s decision to approve a $1.42 billion arms sale to the country. He hadn’t yet landed that White House job, but he was in the West Wing often, and he had a new Twitter avatar: a picture of himself standing on the stairs to Air Force One. Newt Gingrich’s publisher had bought Lewandowski’s Trump book, and by the end of the summer, he had added yet another gig, joining Trump’s official super PAC, American First Action. Lewandowski had absorbed the swamp’s most essential trait: adaptability.

我很快就得知,莱万多夫斯基其实并未离开沼泽。他只是退隐于华盛顿未注册说客的庞杂队伍之中。我拿到的一份合约副本显示,他于7月份新创办了莱万多夫斯基战略咨询公司(Lewandowski Strategic Advisors),而且至少撬走了大道战略的一个客户:俄亥俄州的那家发薪日贷款机构。他越来越多地重新在电视上露面,大力维护特朗普,并对种种私人利益表示支持。一次,我得到消息,有人看到他出现在台湾台北。他不愿告诉我他在那儿干什么,或者为谁办事——“我只是一个普通公民,”他发短信说——但几周后,他在推文中谈及特朗普政府决定批准总价值为14.2亿美元的对台军售方案一事。他尚未在白宫谋到职位,但他常常出现在西翼,还有了新的Twitter头像:那是他站在通往空军一号(Air Force One)的阶梯上的照片。莱万多夫斯基写的关于特朗普的书,已被纽特·金里奇的出版人已经买下;及至夏末,他得到另一个大显身手的机会,加入了特朗普的官方超级政治行动委员会American First Action(美国优先行动计划)。莱万多夫斯基汲取了这片沼泽最基本的特质:适应性。

Not long ago, Stryk opened a proper Washington office, right in Georgetown, a stone’s throw from the Four Seasons. The new space was undecorated and unmarked, and there wasn’t much there yet but a couple of laptops. But Stryk was buoyant. He was about to sign two more big foreign lobbying clients, the governments of Afghanistan and Kenya, along with a pharmaceutical firm. Saudi Arabia had canceled its S.P.G. contract after Stryk’s client, the crown prince, was deposed in a palace reshuffle, and New Zealand’s foreign ministry had decided that its embassy no longer needed Stryk’s services. But in Stryk’s view, these were just hiccups. Competitors around town — big firms that had never given him the time of day — were starting to ask around about S.P.G., wondering who they were and how they were getting so much business.

不久前,斯特莱克开办了一个正式的驻华盛顿办公室,就在乔治城,离四季酒店(Four Seasons)很近。那个新空间未经装修,也没什么标记,里边除了若干部笔记本电脑,就没有太多东西了。但斯特莱克信心十足。他即将签下另外两个外国大客户——阿富汗和肯尼亚政府——还要和一家制药公司签约。斯特莱克的那位身为王储的客户在宫斗中出局以后,沙特阿拉伯取消了和SPG的合约;新西兰外交部也已判定,其使馆不再需要斯特莱克的服务。但斯特莱克认为,这些只是小挫折。城中的竞争对手——一些从不理睬他的大公司——开始打探关于SPG的信息,想知道他们是谁,何以拉到那么多生意。

In about a month, Trump’s ham-handed defense of white nationalists and white supremacists rallying in Charlottesville would prompt most of the chief executives serving on White House advisory councils to quit in protest. It would cost the chief executives something, losing their face time with this impressionable, transactional president — and their loss would be K Street’s gain. Those same companies would now just rely more on their lobbyists, or on the trade associations they belonged to, to drive their agendas.


But as we sat down in his new conference room, Stryk was already looking beyond the Beltway. He saw Trump’s disruption spreading beyond Washington, to foreign capitals and overseas markets. The chaos in Trump’s government was creating a vacuum abroad, one that entrepreneurs like Stryk could fill with deal-making and private diplomacy. ‘‘I want to grow a business that’s 200 million a year,’’ Stryk told me. ‘‘You’re not going to get that arranging dinners in Washington.’’


The new contracts with Afghanistan and Kenya, Stryk explained, were prototypes for the kind of business he wanted to do, an escape from the washing machine. The Afghans and the Kenyans didn’t just want help with the Trump administration. They wanted help with everything: attracting American investment, troubleshooting problems in other foreign capitals, finding companies that could build them roads or manage their health care records.


So recently, Stryk had begun pitching investors on a new venture: a $5 billion private-equity fund that would specialize in infrastructure and procurement. One side of the business, the lobbying, would identify government customers abroad; the other side would invest in companies that could deliver what those governments needed. Secure voting systems, border-security hardware — the opportunities were limitless. ‘‘It is our job, as conservatives and capitalists, to take the chaos and do with it what we can,’’ Stryk said. ‘‘Our goal is to take an environment that was created by the president and use it to —’’ He paused for a second, thinking. ‘‘To do some good.’’