APCO Revisited

March 2, 2013

APCO Revisited

by Din Merican


As we are already under the onslaught of the UMNO/BN propaganda machine in the weeks leading up to the 13th General Election, a little nugget has popped up that reminds us of the characteristics and attributes of the incoming government.

If you recall in 2008 UMNO-BN began acquiring the services of very expensive international public relations consultants including APCO and FBC. In both cases the contracts were exposed and eventually canceled. But not after much ink and video tape had been spilled on ad hominem attacks on Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition, while blindly extolling the greatness of PM Najib Razak. These articles were portrayed as ‘journalism’ but they were in fact anything but.

This entire fiasco was expertly exposed by SarawakReport.com here and here.

One of the people at the center of this scandal and abuse of government power was the American Joshua Trevino. In January Josh Trevino filed a report with the United States Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Unit. Any American doing work on behalf of a foreign government or politicians has to proactively register these activities with the Department of Justice.

Trevino’s January filing is linked here or here.

In it we see and are reminded of a few interesting things.

  1. Trevino was working on behalf of the Prime Minister’s office through the companies APCO Worldwide (Washington DC), FBC Media (London, now defunct) and the David All Group (Washington DC, now defunct, its employees absorbed into APCO worldwide).
  2. Trevino is no longer doing work for the Malaysian government since at the very least the 3rd quarter of 2012
  3. Trevino received payments totaling $389,724.70 from May 2008 through April 2011 for the blogs he posted at MalaysiaMatters.com (now defunct) and MalaysiaMonitor.com (also defunct) and efforts to place other opinion pieces in US media.
  4. Trevino also was paid to visit Malaysia in 2008 and to attend the 3rd International Conference on the Muslim World and the West as part of his activities related to MalaysiaMatters.com
  5. Josh Trevino was a conduit through which payments were made in 2010 to 10 additional hired writers who published blogs and articles in the United Sates frequently attacking Anwar Ibrahim and the Malaysian opposition. These amounts totaled  $130,950.

These individuals included

  • Brad Jackson (received $24,700) who published articles attacking Anwar Ibrahim at the conservative blog RedState.
  • Ben Domenech (received $36,000) who published articles attacking Anwar Ibrahim and his wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail at the conservative blog RedState including this one and this one on the Huffington Post.
  • Claire Berlinski  (received $6,750) who published essays attacking Anwar Ibrahim at the conservative blog Ricochet.com here.
  • Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld (received $30,000) who published essays at FamilySecurityMatters.org attacking Anwar Ibrahim an Georgetown University here; a contributing editor and director of the New York City based American Center for Democracy and one of the key proponents of Islamophobia-fear in America.
  • Seth Mandel (received $5,500) who viciously attacked Anwar Ibrahim at FrontPageMagazine, the National Review, Daily Caller and other conservative blogs.
  • Chuck DeVore (received $3,000) former member of California State Assembly who ran for the US Senate in 2010 and lost in the Republican primary. Currently works at a conservative Think Tank. He sent out emails and published essays attacking Anwar Ibrahim and was debunked here.
  • Rachel Motte (received $9,500) who attacked Anwar Ibrahim frequently at a now defunct blog called the New Ledger. One of her essays was so outrageous that she had to remove it when she was threatened with a law suit by a former US Ambassador for its libelous statements. (see my blog here). Rachel also posted at the Daily Caller and other conservative sites.
  • Christopher Badeaux (received $11,000)
  • David Brown (received $2,500)
  • Kevin Holtsberry (received $2,000)

Let us repeat. All of these individuals were paid BY THE MALAYSIAN GOVERNMENT to publish essays that praised the Malaysian government and attacked Anwar Ibrahim in AMERICAN MEDIA and make it appear like they were independent, UNBIASED writers. This is a breach of journalistic integrity at RedState, Huffington Post and every other outlet that carried these frivolous essays.

This also reflects the ethics of the Malaysian government and its belief that it can throw a few million dollars to paper over the massive corruption taking place under its purview simply by slinging some mud at its political opponents.

Furthermore, the irony of the propaganda is amazing. In Malaysia Anwar Ibrahim is regularly attacked as being a Jewish agent and American agent. However in many of these articles the paid writers attack him for being a terrorist sympathizer, an agent of the nefarious Muslim brotherhood and and frontman for radical Islam, who hides behind a facade of moderate Islam.

Trevino himself has become the target of some ridicule. He was about to join the staff of the Guardian when information about his writing-for-hire activities was revealed to the British paper, which promptly cancelled his contract.

14 thoughts on “APCO Revisited

  1. Takes 2hands to clap. Both sides unequally unethical. One want to be seen and the other will get it done for the price even if in its own operating country. Who gives a darn about anything for the people. If there are ethics from the West, this may not happen. ……………… so what’s new?

  2. Goodness — $389,724.70. And to think that I got paid nothing during that same time for all the things I wrote. I just had to put up with all the attacks from some of the writers whose names are mentioned above.

    I said it before when I wrote about the Jack Abramoff affair and Malaysia. What a colossal waste of money. The Government shells out almost $400,000 and the best they can get in some right wing blogs in the US.

  3. I just read the forms that Trevino belatedly filed with the US Department of Justice. (Better late than never, I guess.) You are supposed to file these forms when you start the work, not after it is done. By not filing, the hands of APCO, FBC, and the Malaysian Government were hidden. Failure to file could have led to criminal charges against Trevino; only he can explain why he has chosen to file the forms now.

    Anyhow, here is a fascinating statement, which also confirms what we all suspected. Trevino wrote in the form, “The explicit intent of …this engagement…was to affect domestic political opinion within Malaysia proper. Given the outlets, there was likely [to be] some effect on US public opinion and discourse, but it was neither by design nor intent.”

    In other words, it was as we suspected. Even though these articles appeared on obscure websites in the US and were written by people with absolutely no background on Malaysia, they were immediately trumpeted back to Malaysia by Bernama and played up in Utusan, the NST, RTM and all of the Government’s other propaganda outlets. The primary goal was to try and influence Malaysian public opinion, not American.

    I am very happy about the role that I played back then in countering this propaganda, by writing and commenting in the Wall Street Journal, the East West Center journal, and on various Malaysian websites. Trevino got paid $389,000. I didn’t get one penny from anyone. My conscience is very clear.
    Ambassador Malott,

    You are not alone. Most of us speak or write about issues without getting paid. We do that because we believe that citizens must better informed about their leaders and the government. That is a worthy cause in my book.–Din Merican

  4. Those conservatives. They’d sell their own mothers. I always thought republicans remind me so much of UMNO. I guess they were cut from the same cloth.

  5. Stupid American conservatives. They want to criticize Anwar for saying something anti-semitic maybe they should get acquainted with Utusan or Perkasa who speaks about destroying Israel ever so often. Political hacks. It’s my observation that right-wingers/tea partiers are very much alike typical UMNO supporters. They are sheep.

  6. Din, you are absolutely right. I have the greatest respect for what you do, and for your blog and how you conduct it, and for your willingness to stand up for what is right, starting with the saga of Rosli Dahlan.

  7. Didi,
    What can you expect when you have news network called Fox News? Especially the ramblers such as Glenn Beck yapping away. You should see how Jon Stewart decimated such characters

    Dear Malott,
    Well, truth shall always prevails. Meanwhile, we can contend with all these innuendos, misinformation, disinformation, & damn lies

  8. We should require that bloggers and online media sites reveal that they are being paid by anyone related to their articles especially politicians or related parties of politicians and political party which is miles ahead of anyone else in the region. We should have the same..

  9. bigjoe99 @ 10:54am,

    A good suggestion as a starter then we should follow up and go beyond by requiring to have all political parties declaring their sources of revenues.

  10. Dato’ Din dan juga Ambassador John Mallot yang di-hormati.
    Pihak says cuma ingin jika dapat rujuk rangkaian/thread oleh MM ( Mariam Mokhtar ) atas tajuk ” The MM=Mess” – referring to the Collapse of Buildings & Structures by Con-people, i pray Malaysia does not Collapse arising from the culture relating to The Depravity of Mind, that is fast spreading downwards to the general masses, who, everyone of them wanting quick wealth, are EMULATING/COPYING their Leaders – the mental culture thas is collapsing fast…. ( so we see Structures & Buildings Collapsing everywhere as its syndrome…

  11. Josh Trevino is lying about “not knowing” who he was working for. In 2008 he visited Malaysia and took some nice photos with Abdullah Badawi.

  12. Those speech writers are paid to tell lies. We have plenty of politicians who are just efficient to fabricate and lie that put political opponents to jail. At one time, they did say that Tamil tigers and communists were involved in Malaysia politics. Now they have disappeared inti thin air.

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