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.