Arizona Senate candidate and GOP Rep. Jeff Flake was pressed over the weekend about his past work as a lobbyist for a Namibian uranium mine during an appearance on a local TV interview program, including whether any of his lobbying work ever supported South Africa during apartheid.
Flake, whose work in the influence industry in the late 1980s and early 1990s was detailed by the National Journal in April, adamantly denied that he had ever, in the interviewer's words, "either for an employer or on your own, either indirectly or directly" supported the regime in South Africa.
"Absolutely not," Flake said firmly.
But one of the companies Flake worked for in the 1980s did have ties to the ruling powers of South Africa. Federal records show that Flake worked at Smoak, Shipley & Henry, a law firm that had represented the South African-controlled regime in Namibia during apartheid.
Flake worked for a group called the Namibia News Bureau, run out of the Smoak, Shipley & Henry offices. Anti-apartheid groups had criticized Smoak and Shipley in the 1980s.
There is no evidence that Flake ever supported apartheid and in the television interview he called it "offensive" and an "awful system."
"Namibia was the victim of South Africa's oppression," he said. Flake lived in Namibia in 1989 as the head of a nonprofit dedicated to helping bring democracy to the nation and transition it away from apartheid rule.
"For anybody to suggest that I in any way countenanced what the South Africans were doing or the policy of apartheid is offensive," he said, saying the charge "baffles" him.
But Democrats pounced on Flake's denial, calling it "misleading" and posting a video of the interview online.
"Jeff Flake is blatantly misleading Arizonans about the years he spent as a lobbyist and registered foreign agent, trying to grease the wheels in Washington on behalf of his clients," said Matt Canter, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "Arizonans deserve to know the truth about Flake's time as a D.C. lobbyist for corporate foreign interests with indisputable ties to South Africa."
Flake's chief of staff did not immediately return a call for comment.
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