Randy Scheunemann’s Profile on the IPS Website mentions Swiftships

For immediate release: Jul 8, 2008


A well-connected lobbyist and political insider who serves as an advisor to Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) presidential campaign, Randy Scheunemann is the founder and president of the public relations firm Orion Strategies 1 and was an active supporter of advocacy groups aimed at building support for the invasion of Iraq. His firms have represented various military contractor and oil interests. Along with neoconservative figures like Robert Kagan and William Kristol, Scheunemann served as a director of the now-defunct Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a letterhead group that played an important role in building support for the Iraq War and an expansive “war on terror.” 2 He also headed the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI), a post-9/11 advocacy outfit that pushed for war in Iraq. Like PNAC, CLI played a key role forging a coalition of Beltway figures who supported a Middle East agenda that had at its core toppling Saddam Hussein. 3 CLI members included McCain and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT). 4

Scheunemann has served as senior foreign policy and national security advisor to McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign since 2007. In May 2008 the New York Times reported that Scheunemann had been working as a lobbyist for foreign governments as a “registered foreign agent” at the same time he was advising McCain. 5 “Over the past several years, Mr. Scheunemann met several times with Mr. McCain to discuss his clients’ interests. He introduced the senator to the foreign ministers of Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia as they tried to win admission to NATO, and a representative of Taiwan as it lobbied for free trade, records show. Mr. Scheunemann also accompanied Mr. McCain to Latvia in 2001 and Georgia in 2006,” the Times reported. 6 In March 2008, Scheunemann ended his registrations with several countries, according to the Times. A new McCain policy prevents campaign workers to be paid for lobbying work, but volunteers need only disclose it. However, “they are not allowed to participate in any campaign conversations about the issues for which they lobby, which would seem to pose a conflict for someone like Mr. Scheunemann. His work as a foreign agent could overlap on any number of issues with his foreign policy advice.” 7

According to the Lobbying Registration office of the U.S. House of Representatives and the watchdog group OpenSecrets.org, Scheunemann’s lobbying firm, Scheunemann & Associates, has for several years represented the National Rifle Association. 8 In 2005, the firm also represented the Caspian Alliance, a consortium of oil- and gas-producing nations from the Caspian region. Scheunemann has also led the lobbying firms Orion Strategies (which he owns) and the Mercury Group. The Mercury Group, for which Scheunemann served as president, has lobbied on behalf clients that include Swiftships Shipbuilders, Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, BP America, Air Force Memorial Foundation, Lockheed Martin, National Shooting Sports Foundation, and Sporting Arms and Ammunitions Manufacturers. 9

Scheunemann told the New York Sun that despite a number of “realists” such as Brent Scowcroft among McCain’s other foreign policy advisors, his own influence, as well as that of other like-minded advisers like William Kristol and Robert Kagan, has been paramount. “I don’t think, given where John has been for the last four or five years on the Iraq War and foreign policy issues, anyone would mistake Scowcroft for a close adviser,” Scheunemann said, adding that even if Scowcroft were close, McCain “was not taking the advice.” 10

Scheunemann has criticized the other presidential contenders, sometimes charging them with having a “September 10 mindset” that was not suited to fighting terrorism. 11 While commenting on former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s support for “timetables and milestones” for the Iraqi government, Scheunemann asserted that McCain “does not believe in timetables or deadlines, secret or otherwise. He has made it clear that setting a timetable or deadline is nothing more than setting a date certain for surrender.” 12 In mid-2007, Scheunemann called the idea of withdrawing troops from Iraq as “ludicrous. Because the idea that we will be able to better prevent sectarian violence and fight al-Qaida better from Kuwait than how we are doing it now is laughable.” 13

Scheunemann worked previously for McCain as an advisor for the senator’s failed 2000 presidential bid during a period when the candidate’s views on foreign affairs evolved dramatically. 14 John Judis writes that the candidate began “seeking to differentiate his views from those of other Republican presidential aspirants and from the growing isolationism of House Republicans … [placing] his new interventionist instincts within a larger ideological framework. That ideological framework was neoconservatism. McCain began reading the Weekly Standard and conferring with its editors, particularly Bill Kristol.” Shortly after his staff consulted with Kristol, McCain hired a bevy of neoconservative-aligned operatives, including Scheunemann, Marshall Wittmann, and Daniel McKivergan. 15

The impact of this group of advisors on the senator’s thinking was revealed in early 1999, Judis reported, when McCain spoke at Kansas State University using a speech Scheunemann helped draft. In it,  McCain echoed the neoconservative idea of “national greatness conservatism,” arguing: “The United States is the indispensable nation because we have proven to be the greatest force for good in human history…. [W]e have every intention of continuing to use our primacy in world affairs for humanity’s benefit.” Judis reported about the stumping, “The centerpiece of the speech was a strategy that McCain called ‘rogue-state rollback,'” a term Scheunemann claimed to have created based on rhetoric used by critics of 1950s Cold War containment strategy. 16

Scheunemann has experience on Capitol Hill dating back to the mid-1980s, when he began working for a number of congressional committees. According to his biography on the PNAC website, between 1986 and 1993 Scheunemann “served on the staffs of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and the House Republican Policy Committee.” 17 He then became a senior advisor to Republican presidential candidate Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS) in 1996, served on the 1996 Republican Platform Committee, and between 1993 and 1999 was national security advisor for Dole and Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS). 18 In 1997, during the time he was working as a congressional aide for Lott, Scheunemann reportedly forgot to remove a shotgun from his car after a duck-hunting trip; when he drove up to the U.S. Capitol to report for work, he was arrested for possession of an unregistered firearm. 19

Scheunemann’s PNAC bio states that during his time working on the Hill, he “was involved in Senate deliberations concerning the use of American military power in Somalia, the Korean Peninsula, Iraq, Haiti, and Bosnia. He also served as coordinator for Senate Republican policy on UN reform, congressional-executive war powers, NATO enlargement, global climate change, economic sanctions, ballistic missile defense, and technology transfers to China.” 20

During this period Scheunemann helped draft the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, which made the toppling of Saddam Hussein an official U.S. policy goal and authorized $98 million for the Iraqi National Congress, a loose grouping of Iraqi dissidents led by Ahmad Chalabi that has been widely blamed for channeling false intelligence about Iraq. 21 Scheunemann also served briefly as an advisor to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld early in the George W. Bush administration as a consultant on Iraq policy. 22

Much of Scheunemann’s work, in both the public and private spheres, has been oriented toward Europe, promoting democratic programs and expanding NATO to former Soviet-bloc countries. A board member (along with McCain) of the International Republican Institute (IRI), a key institutional vehicle through which the National Endowment for Democracy carries out its work, Scheunemann has worked closely with Bruce Jackson, a fellow former PNAC director, on NATO expansion issues, serving as a board member of Jackson’s U.S. Committee on NATO and as a registered lobbyist and/or consultant for Georgia, Latvia, Macedonia, and Romania. 23

According to the Financial Times, while serving as “an American adviser to the Georgian government” in late 2006, Scheunemann was critical of the Bush administration during its consultations with Russia in the U.N. Security Council regarding security issues in Georgia. He accused Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of “appeasement” for acquiescing to Russia’s demand for a U.N. resolution regarding the Russia-supported republic of Abkhazia, which broke away from Georgia, in exchange for Russia’s support of sanctions on North Korea in the wake of that country’s nuclear test. Said Scheunemann: “What Rice approved was a weak, ambiguous resolution on North Korea. They sold out the Georgians. That was the trade.” 24