Paul Manafort Image Credit: Reuters

New York: For 40 years, Paul Manafort sold composure.

He sold it to politicians who wanted his advice. He sold it to party apparatchiks who feared his power. He sold it to US presidents, foreign despots, members of Congress, corporate boards, the media.

As a young man in a hurry in the late 1970s and 1980s, Manafort, along with a few partners, reinvented the influence-peddling game in the American capital, running political campaigns one moment, then taking payments from corporations to lobby the politicians he had helped get elected.

This frictionless revolving door involved the biggest names in Republican politics.

Manafort helped Gerald Ford win at the 1976 Republican national convention, helped Ronald Reagan capture the White House in 1980 and helped George HW Bush hold it in 1988.

The client list on the corporate side was equally impressive.

Lucrative influence peddling business

The business was lucrative, delivering the partners an income of more than $450,000 each ($1m today) in 1986, they boasted.

Manafort began a lifelong indulgence in multiple homes, custom suits, luxury automobiles, Concorde flights and first-class everything.

His success, and the wealth it brought, seemed to breed in Manafort a high estimation of his own ability to shape events, if not reality.

“If politics has done anything for us, it’s taught us to treat everything as a campaign,” he said in a 1989 interview.

Ukraine fiasco

In 2005, Manafort opened an office in Kiev, Ukraine, where he would begin work for his biggest, final client. The former Ukrainian prime minister Viktor Yanukovych had lost office in January.

Over the next decade, his Kremlin-backed party, the Party of Regions, would pay Manafort’s firm tens of millions of dollars for political consultancy work, federal prosecutors said.

The downfall of Yanukovych coincided with a collapse of Manafort’s own.

In 2015, he entered a clinic in Arizona to ward off a “massive emotional breakdown”, according to his daughters’ texts, quoted in the Atlantic.

With the Kiev money gone, his once-glittering business had fallen on hard times, and he was deep in debt, according to witness testimony at his trial.

FBI probe

By the time Manafort’s former work in Ukraine came to public light, he was already under FBI investigation.

The spotlight forced him out of the Trump campaign, closing off his longshot return to power.

For the first time, Manafort’s business, and especially his discreet work overseas, was under intense scrutiny.

In April 2017, Manafort’s home was raided by FBI agents.

That October, he was hit with a first wave of charges by special counsel Robert Mueller.

In June this year, he was sent to jail for alleged witness tampering. Next month, he faces a separate trial on federal felony charges.

— Guardian News & Media Ltd.