Bridges Burned in U.S., Political King Maker Hits Africa

Nov 20, 2007 11:34am

Political consultant Dick Morris, who rose to prominence as a key adviser for President Bill Clinton and then fell from grace after a scandal involving a prostitute, has surfaced as a political consultant in an unlikely place — Kenya.  Leading presidential candidate Raila Odinga has brought Morris on as a consultant to help him beat incumbent President Mwai Kibaki in next month’s elections. Last week Morris arrived in Kenya on a tourist visa and held a press conference saying he believed Odinga was poised to win the election. "I think the reason is he has a clear reputation for courage and for integrity and for change," Morris said. "I am delighted to be here in Kenya and to help you get rid of the corrupt government." But news of Morris’ own scandals soon spread throughout Kenyan media. Letters to the editor and op-ed articles have severely criticized Odinga’s choice of consultant. One op-ed in Kenya’s The Nation newspaper laid out Morris’ past indiscretions, including his affair and leaking of sensitive information to a prostitute, and that the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services has Morris as one of the top 10 tax evaders in the state. As of Oct. 1, 2007 he still owed almost $300,000 in back taxes. "Either Mr. Odinga is unaware — which is difficult to believe — of the man’s background or he chose to ignore it, which is a political mistake," the op-ed states. Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. Kibisu Kabatesi is part of Odinga’s strategy team and says that any past problems Morris may have had do not deter from his political experience.  "I’m sure if you scratch the surface on anyone you will find something," Kabatesi told ABC News. "Those are his personal problems and have nothing to do with politics. He has the expertise that we need." Morris does not have a history in Kenya or with Kenyan politics. According to Kabatesi, it was through mutual contacts that Morris approached Odinga with an offer to help with the campaign, and Odinga, who is locked in a highly competitive race, took him up on it.  "He doesn’t have to be a political scientist who understands Kenya’s political background," said Kabatesi. "He just has to understand politics and elections, and he does." But Morris’ political career in Kenya may be over before it even really begins. The Kenyan government has questioned whether Morris has the right paperwork to work in the country. He entered on a tourist visa last Tuesday, only to announce in a press conference the following day that he was part of Odinga’s campaign. By Thursday, he was gone. Contrary to the political rumors floating around, Morris was not kicked out of the country, Kabatesi says, but had business to tend to in the United States. "He’s supposed to be back sometime this week," he said. Odinga’s party ODM maintains that Morris did not break any laws by coming in as a tourist because he is volunteering his services and therefore doesn’t need a work permit or business visa. But government spokesman Dr. Alfred Mutua says Morris broke the law. "Anybody can work in Kenya, but they need to work under proper rules," Dr. Mutua told ABC News. "If he comes in on a tourist visa, he’s supposed to be taking pictures of monkeys, not working for a political party, whether he’s being paid or not." Dr. Mutua says that if Morris comes back without the proper paperwork, Kenyan immigration officials will arrest him. "If he comes back and breaks our laws with impunity, we are going to treat him like we do all illegal immigrants," he said. "We will lock him up, take him to court and deport him in handcuffs." Obtaining visas and work permits in Kenya often takes several months, and the election, which is scheduled for Dec. 27, could be over before Morris is accepted back; a fact not lost on Odinga supporters who say the government will make sure Morris’ paperwork is not cleared in time. Dr. Mutua says the issue is not about politics, but Kenya’s immigration laws. "For us, what we care about are procedures. These elections are not a surprise; people have known about them for months," he said. "We are not going to bend our rules for somebody’s inefficiencies." But ODM is running on a platform of ridding the current government of its own inefficiencies and corrupt policies. The nonprofit group Transparency International rated Kenya as one of the 20 most corrupt countries in the world, with bribery of police and government offices an endemic problem. The saga of Dick Morris and whether he will be in Kenya helping the opposition party has added more fuel to an increasingly nasty election. Dr. Mutua, who is the spokesman for President Kibaki’s government, also commented on Morris’ background.  "From a political perspective, we are not surprised that they (ODM) picked Dick Morris because they are very dirty people," said Dr. Mutua. "Birds of a feather flock together." Do you have a tip for Brian Ross and the Investigative Team?

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