Lobbyist for the Lost Cause
When John Wilkes Booth left Mary Surratt's boarding house on H Street in Washington, DC, his co-conspirators knew where he was headed. Seven hours later, while Booth fled south on horseback, President Abraham Lincoln lay dying. Today, a Chinese restaurant called Wok 'n Roll stands where the Surratt Boarding House once was. Until eight months ago, its owner, Victor Quinto, told me, the restaurant played host to secret monthly meetings of members of Jefferson Davis Camp 305, a Northern Virginia-based faction of the Southern heritage group the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The existence of the meetings was also confirmed by a Camp 305 member, Charles Goolsby, who refused to say whether he attended, commenting only that "I haven't been a part of the SCV in a long time." Goolsby is currently a producer for Voice of America, the Congressionally funded radio network that claims to promote America's values abroad.
The leader of Jefferson Davis Camp 305's lunchtime meetings was its former commander, Richard T. Hines, a high-rolling lobbyist who is one of the unheralded success stories of Bush's Washington. The youngest Republican ever elected to the state legislature in South Carolina, Hines first arrived in Washington to work in a variety of midlevel posts during the Reagan Administration. Now he operates through RTH Consulting Inc., a lobbying firm that boasts of having "an active voice in the current Bush Administration." In addition to securing a nice little appointment to the national libraries board for his wife, Hines has earned more than $150 million in Defense Department contracts for his weapons manufacturing clients and rakes in a large fee for his work on behalf of an African tyrant. It's a good life.
Hines's squalid lobbying is hardly reason for special notice. Washington's boulevard of lobbyists, K Street, does not suffer from a dearth of flamboyantly amoral players. Edward von Kloberg III made millions from tyrannical clients like Saddam Hussein and Mobutu Sese Seko, and blew his cash on elaborate galas where he would appear festooned in furs, medallions and his trademark cape. (In May von Kloberg leaped from atop a Roman castle to his death after a young man rejected his romantic entreaties.) Then there's Jack Abramoff, a close associate of House majority leader Tom DeLay, recently indicted for wire fraud and conspiracy, and under investigation by the Justice Department and Senate Indian Affairs Committee for defrauding Indian tribes--whom he casually referred to as "troglodytes"--out of millions of dollars. Hines, as it happens, has picked up one of von Kloberg's clients, the dictator of Gambia, and, like Abramoff, he is well connected to the political machine run out of the White House by Karl Rove. But it is Hines's devotion to the Lost Cause that makes him a rarity in a predatory world with little time for the mythology of magnolia and moonlight.
At the same time as he has extended his own wealth and influence, Hines has shrewdly used the political opportunities presented him by the Bush era to leverage the extremist goals of the neo-Confederate movement. He has become this movement's hidden hand, from his arrangement of the funding for a race-infused smear campaign against the presidential candidacy of Senator John McCain in the decisive 2000 South Carolina Republican primary that ultimately handed the nomination to George W. Bush, to his financing of a faction of white supremacists seeking to transform the country's oldest Southern heritage organization, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, into a far-right pressure group.
"Richard comes as close to within the Brooks Brothers definition of a Southern patriot as anybody I can think of," said Roger McCredie, the SCV's former chief of "Heritage Defense" and executive director of the Southern Legal Resource Center, a North Carolina law organization closely linked to the SCV's radical faction. "He's certainly well connected," McCredie added. "He's very valuable. I'd like to multiply him by forty. That's the logical projection of what we'd like to see happen."
As a history student at the University of South Carolina campus in the early 1970s, Hines met his future wife, Patricia Mayes, the daughter of local oligarch "Bubba Jim" Mayes, who presided over an 8,000-acre cotton plantation in Mayesville and kept politicians from both parties in his debt through campaign contributions made by the National Cotton Council, which he controlled. While still in college, Hines became South Carolina's youngest-ever Republican elected official, winning a seat in the state's House of Representatives. In North Carolina, just up the road from Hines's district, his friend and future business partner Carter Wrenn helped manage the 1972 US Senate campaign of Jesse Helms, a race-baiting conservative who represented the new face of the Republican Party in the Deep South, which was assimilating latter-day Dixiecrats. Helms vanquished a Greek-American Democrat with the campaign slogan "Elect One of Us." When Ronald Reagan was elected President on a states' rights platform eight years later, Southern conservative John Shelton Reed, writing in 1981 in the newly minted neo-Confederate publication Southern Partisan under the pseudonym J.R. Vanover, declared, "If my analysis is correct, the stage may now be set for really hard-core sectional politics, for the first time in over a century."
Hines, following the political tide, moved to Washington. Throughout the 1980s he and his wife worked in the Reagan Administration, with Hines quietly toiling away at various midlevel White House administrative posts in the Transportation Department and General Services Administration. (His wife worked as the Army's deputy assistant for manpower.) Afterward, he became a vice president at Electronic Data Systems, Ross Perot's company, using his contacts to get government contracts. But Hines also served as a bridge between the Republican Party and certain fringes of the conservative movement.
Meanwhile, Hines directed the takeover of Washington's Confederate Memorial Hall, an apolitical historical museum founded by Confederate Civil War veterans in 1907. Its former director John Edward Hurley said in 1986 that he tried to prevent Hines from hosting a fundraiser at the museum for denizens of the Reagan Doctrine, a peculiar gathering of Nicaraguan contras, Afghan-based mujahedeen and members of the Angolan guerrilla group UNITA, which was funded by the South African apartheid regime. Hurley claims that Hines, whom he described as possessed with the "malevolent aroma of the oligarch," retaliated by organizing a series of lawsuits against him that forced the museum to close in 1997. "I was right about these guys in the beginning. They all turned out to be a bunch of white supremacists," Hurley told me, referring to Hines and his allies, who included Goolsby, whom he called "Hines's gofer."
Hurley encountered Hines regularly during the halcyon days of the Reagan era at the anodyne-sounding National Journalism Center's (NJC) Monday Club, a weekly lunchtime event dedicated to introducing fledgling right-wing journalists to conservative movement leaders. The Monday Club's greeter was a veteran but obscure conservative operative named Fred Mann, who recently gained notoriety for assembling an incoherent, distortion-laden secret memo on alleged liberal media bias at PBS. Corporation for Public Broadcasting president Ken Tomlinson, who ordered the Mann report, was a key funder and organizer of the NJC during the 1980s, according to Hurley. Its intern program, which functioned as Hines's personal romper room, received major funding from Philip Morris. In 1993, for example, Philip Morris paid Hines to encourage NJC journalists to write articles refuting EPA reports on the health risks of secondhand smoke.
"We could promote the 'care and feeding' of journalists to develop a network sympathetic to Philip Morris," Hines wrote in a 1994 response to a request from Philip Morris for help in influencing the European media. "Using this approach in the U.S. we have been able to get favorable articles/commentaries in major publications such as the Wall Street Journal, National Review and reach millions of the public through the numerous syndicated columnists that are in our network."