Confessions of a Political Hitman: My Secret Life of Scandal, Corruption, Hypocrisy and Dirty Attacks that Decide Who Gets Elected (and Who Doesn't)


The most influential people in a political race aren't the campaign managers, the strategists or even the candidates themselves. In fact, you won't even find them on a campaign's list of official members or volunteers.

Enter the world of the political hitman. Few know that these operatives exist, and campaigns go to great effort to distance themselves from the people who dig up their dirt. But political hitmen wield a secretly powerful ...
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The most influential people in a political race aren't the campaign managers, the strategists or even the candidates themselves. In fact, you won't even find them on a campaign's list of official members or volunteers.

Enter the world of the political hitman. Few know that these operatives exist, and campaigns go to great effort to distance themselves from the people who dig up their dirt. But political hitmen wield a secretly powerful position in today's American politics, where scandals derail campaigns and negative campaigning decides who gets elected and who doesn't.

For the past twelve years, Stephen Marks has worked silently behind the scenes as one of the country's top opposition researchers: a political hitman and an assassin of reputations. Confessions of a Political Hitman is Marks's intensely personal and explosive story through more than a decade in the underbelly of American political campaigns.

From his early days in politics through his rapid movement into the secret world of opposition research, Marks discovers a talent for digging up dirt and uncovering political liabilities. His work involves a wide scope of American politics, from state governments to presidential elections to the Republican Revolution. But the exciting work soon leads to disillusionment as candidates he believed in turn out to be worse than expected, and hypocrisy abounds on both sides of the political fence. Eventually Marks finds himself living in the shadows, both politically and personally, and searching for escape.

In Confessions of a Political Hitman, Marks reveals the fascinating and incredible details of what really goes on behind the scenes in Americancampaigning-including the political realities behind the campaigns, careers and attack ads of some of Washington's heavy hitters, including George W. Bush, John Kerry, Jack Abramoff and countless others.

Confessions of a Political Hitman is one man's story about secrets, lies, hypocrisy and influence-painting a troubling picture of whom we elect and how they get elected.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Part memoir, part industry exposé, Marks's account relates how he became a Republican Party operative digging up dirt on Democratic candidates. His field goes by the name "opposition research." It is mostly legal, according to Marks, but usually secretive and, by his own evolving standards, frequently immoral. Marks drifted into the field during the first half of the 1990s and became a true believer in the GOP cause. The book names names and cites examples, from local races to statewide campaigns (Jeb Bush vs. Lawton Chiles) and includes contests for the U.S. Senate (Jesse Helms vs. Harvey Gantt) and U.S. House of Representatives, as well as presidential elections (Bob Dole vs. Bill Clinton and John Kerry vs. George W. Bush). Marks began writing the book after coming to doubt his vocation's ethics. Despite this turnabout, he is not an admirable whistleblower with a likable personality. Marks's tone and language drip with sleaze heightened by passages about his womanizing. In fact, that and often poor treatment of candidates and staff members might lead readers to conclude that Marks fell lower than his clients. Marks has written an important book that fills a gap in the popular literature about American politics, but it is not a pleasant read. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Research on the opposition has been a part of U.S. political campaigns almost since the start. "Going negative" is effective, and desperate candidates will do so when poll numbers go south and campaigns are in danger of being lost. That's when people like Marks are called upon to dig up dirt on the opposition. Marks (radio host, KFNX, Phoenix) worked as a political "opposition research specialist" from 1992 to 2006. He wants his book to help Americans decide "whether or not all the negativity . . . is a necessary evil to create an educated voter, or instead is something we can all do without." In unsavory detail, he relates his work as "Oppo Man" for various Republican Party entities and PACs, uncovering financial, personal, and political information on Democrats and occasionally other Republicans. Chapters are devoted to specific races and candidates or to background on how various "dirty tricks" were researched and effected. As in any confession, opinion and one-sided storytelling abound. However, Marks candidly explains his disillusionment with the work he did and with many of the political figures he helped to elect. Readers who enjoy political gossip may find the book interesting, even if they find little to admire about "Oppo Man" himself. Recommended for public libraries.
—Jill Ortner

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402208546
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/14/2008
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Marks has been an opposition research specialist for more than 12 years, beginning with the historical Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 through the equally historic Democratic takeover of Congress in 2006. He has appeared on numerous television programs, including The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity & Colmes and Fox and Friends.
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Read an Excerpt

Excerpt from Chapter One: The Beginning of the End: Jack Abramoff, John Kerry, and Al Gore

"You're up all night and down every day"

It was the day after Election Day 2004. Despite only twelve years in a successful career as a political hitman-and doing for those twelve years what I believed at the time to be the first truly constructive endeavor in my life-I had become disillusioned with the entire political process, and to make matters worse, my physical health was deteriorating more rapidly than my political idealism.

"Stephen, this has got to stop. You cannot continue doing this for a living," Dr. Butler told me in frustration. "It's killing you physically and mentally, and not only that, you're way too high-strung for this type of work."

Shooting back in knee-jerk fashion, I responded sarcastically, "And what type of work is that, doctor?"

"Working on the dark side. You living in the shadows, digging up dirt on politicians. Living out of a suitcase, skulking around the country from state to state, keeping crazy hours at night, and feeling like a wild man every day.

Having to be so secretive, since you can't let anyone know what you're doing . . ."
The good doctor was now foaming at the mouth. "Who in their right mind does this kind of crap for a living? The stress will kill you, not to mention your asthma."

He had a point.

***It was November 2, 2004, early in the morning after Election Day, when John Kerry finally called George W. Bush and gracefully told him "Congratulations, Mr. President." Bush had unbelievably once again pulled the rabbit out ofthe hat- déjà vu all over again as America stayed up all night while a single state decided Bush's fate and his place in history.

These were heady times for Republicans in the nation's capitol, who for the first time in fifty years (with the exception of a brief five-month period in early 2001) would take complete control of the White House and both houses of Congress. But times were not so flush for me. Despite my success as a political hitman, my life was unraveling.

Up to that date, I had built a successful career in a mostly unknown field. I was "re-born" as a political hitman in 1994 for the sole purpose of helping to elect a Republican Congress, the first in my lifetime, which we did on Election Day 1994. I did my part by digging up dirt on Democratic political opponents for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

I continued in this line of work for ten more years, working for the Republican National Senatorial Committee and dozens of other political clients as a private consultant, helping more politicians (mostly Republicans) get elected and re-elected with the help of the dirt I dug up on their political opponents. I also wrote a political expose on the Pat Buchanan Presidential campaign that would reveal political corruption to the American people. I also dug up dirt for corporate clients to use against their competitors, no different and no less dirty than political dirt-digging.

Why did I do this work? Dr. Butler was quite correct about the negative impact that being Oppo Man was having on my mental and physical health. But the doctor was dead wrong in his belief that I was the man "in the shadows," living "on the dark side." While this may have been true in the literal sense, in a much more important and deeper sense, it's the politicians and most of the press who cover them that really live in the shadows. It is the politicians who deceive at best and lie at worst about where they really stand on the issues and about their private and professional lives.

So, who is left to expose them? The press sometimes does, but usually can't because of their lack of resources. There are many excellent journalists and investigative reporters in America, but the average political press man or woman doesn't have an entire month to research a politician's veracity about his voting record in Congress, as Oppo Man does.
Other times, the press is just plain lazy. For instance, when Congressman X sends out a press release boldly bragging that it was he, the great congressman, who was responsible for sponsoring the great legislation that was going to put away thousands of pedophiles, how many members of the media will actually look at the first three lines of the legislation, where they could clearly see that Congressman X did indeed sponsor the legislation-along with two hundred other members of Congress? How many members of the press will follow that up with a full research package on every one of that same congressman's votes over x number of years to see how he really votes on all the issues? How many members of the press will find that, ten years prior, that very same congressman who now brags about sponsoring tough-on-crime legislation had in fact voted against key anti-crime legislation, which resulted in thousands of dangerous criminals walking the streets, including the pedophiles he now brags about putting away?

If the only "news" the public gets about politicians is from the politician's bogus press releases, and the press is working under the handicap of not having the resources to research the truth, who is left to tell the public what's really going on?

You guessed it. The political hitman.

A political hitman is forced to live in the shadows in order to uncover the truth that will eventually lead the American public out of the shadows; to force politicians into the light of truth.
I know what you're thinking:
- Is all this negative political stuff really good for America?
- Is it really good for America to know all the personal foibles of every politician?

These are excellent questions. Each reader must come to his or her own conclusions after finishing this book. But you must keep one important fact in mind. Saying the public should not be privy to certain sensitive matters regarding those that represent our democracy is an insult to America's collective intelligence. Armed with all the facts, the public can generally figure out which are relevant and which are not. We saw this in 1998, when President Clinton's popularity rose during the Monica Lewinski fiasco. Not only that, the backlash against the hypocrisy of the Republicans attacking Clinton at that time resulted in the Democrats gaining congressional seats in 1998, less than two months before Clinton was impeached in the House of Representatives.

In retrospect, the voters had it just about right regarding Clinton, and in the end, his historical accountability and punishment were also just about right. The Republicans were correct in their assertion that Bill Clinton lied under oath in a federal courthouse and obstructed justice, and therefore deserved impeachment. But the Democrats were right, too- it was all about sex, so he didn't deserve to be removed from office. This historical result came from congress' actions (impeachment in the House, acquittal in the Senate), made possible largely as a result of the public's wishes.

Thus, while most Americans didn't believe the president's transgressions were serious enough to warrant his removal from office, the public still had the right to know about those transgressions. So unfortunately, the investigative reporters and political hitmen who bring all this negativity into American politics are a necessary evil if the public has "the right to know" the truth before they can make educated votes regarding who their leaders will be.
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Table of Contents


Chapter 1: The Beginning of the End: Jack Abramoff, John Kerry, and Al Gore
Chapter 2: A Political Junkie Is Born -
Chapter 3: Clinton Shock
Chapter 4: The Birth of Oppo Man and the Republican Revolution
Chapter 5: Perks of the Job
Chapter 6: Bush versus Chiles: The 1994 Florida Gubernatorial Race
Chapter 7: Gunning for Gephardt
Chapter 8: The Buchanan Presidential Campaigns: The Worst Sides of American Politics
Chapter 9: Proof That Negative Campaigning Leads to Electoral Victory
Chapter 10: Jesse Helms versus Harvey Gantt
Chapter 11: John Kerry versus Bill Weld
Chapter 12: Dirty Tricks: The Rise and Fall ofGeorgia Senator Max Cleland
Chapter 13: Dole versus Clinton
Chapter 14: Corporate Hitman: Digging Dirt for Corporations
Chapter 15: Action in Texas
Chapter 16: Sex, Lies, and Republican Hypocrisy:The Downfall of the GOP, 1994–2006
Chapter 17: Only in Louisiana: Cynical Politics at its Worst -
Chapter 18: Only in New Jersey: Two Consecutive Sitting Governors Resign in Disgrace
Chapter 19: Cockfighting and Imploding Candidates: Action in Kansas and Oklahoma
Chapter 20: Oppo Men versus Oppo Men: Blindsided in New Hampshire
Chapter 21: The Unpredictable Nature of Opposition Research and Negative Campaigning
Chapter 22: Tom DeLay, Ronnie Earle, and Oppo Man
Chapter 23: Only in Ohio: Good State Gone Bad?
Chapter 24: The Bush Brothers (W. and Jeb) versus Katherine Harris in Florida
Chapter 25: Mark Foley, Pedophilia, and SexCrimes
Chapter 26: Don Goldwater for Governor in Arizona
Chapter 27: Symmetry and Irony
Epilogue: R.I.P. Oppo Man . . . and Thoughts on the 2008 Election
Appendix: Oppo Man Awards
About the Author
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