A Washington, DC-based PR firm linked to the US government and Democratic Party, CLS Strategies, ran a fake news network on Facebook and Instagram, spreading propaganda for Bolivia’s coup regime and the right-wing opposition in Venezuela and Mexico.
by Ben Norton
Part 10 - CLS Strategies and neoconservative Democratic Party operatives
Given CLS Strategies’ extensive work with right-wing Latin American leaders, it might seem as though the influential PR firm would be affiliated with the Republican Party, a traditional bastion of antipathy toward socialist governments across the Global South. But in reality it emerged from the heart of the Democratic Party.
Like Mark Feierstein and Peter Schechter, fellow CLS Strategies co-founder Robert “Bob” Chlopak has deep ties to the Democratic Party. Before creating the PR firm in the 1990s, Chlopak served as the executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the deputy director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, where he boasts on his CLS profile that “he recruited candidates, mobilized grassroots support and raised campaign funds for tight races in helping to elect a Democratic majority.”
A review of individual contributions by CLS Strategies employees filed with the US Federal Election Commission (FEC) shows that the majority of candidates supported are mainstream Democrats.
Joe Biden is particularly popular among CLS Strategies staff. Co-founder Robert Chlopak donated $1,000 to Biden in March 2020, while fellow co-founder Peter Schechter donated the maximum $2,800 to Biden in April.
Schechter has poured tens of thousands of dollars into supporting the campaigns of right-wing Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Kirsten Gillibrand.
Chlopak, too, has donated many thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates over the years. He is a Democratic Party stalwart.
While lobbying for right-wing leaders in Bolivia, Honduras, and Mexico, CLS Latin America specialist Juan Cortiñas has donated to both Democrats and Cuban-American Republicans like Marco Rubio and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
If Joe Biden wins the 2020 presidential election, CLS senior advisor Mark Feierstein is likely to play a major role in the Democratic administration’s Latin America policy.
As one organ of the blob of Beltway think tanks and contractors that prop up and profit from the bipartisan foreign policy consensus, CLS Strategies is hardly unique in its willingness to lobby for right-wing Latin American regimes, or in its zeal to destroy their leftist competitors.
Washington, DC is a base for propaganda schemes like the kind that CLS ran. But it is rare that they are exposed to the public in such a clear and comprehensive fashion.
The scandal only further illustrates the extent to which Washington sets the standard for the online disinformation campaigns it accuses its own enemies of deploying.