Edward von Kloberg III

Flamboyant Washington lobbyist
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The Independent Online

As they like to say in Washington, Edward von Kloberg III was a "go-to guy" - but not for the average honest citizen in need of a merited leg up. Von Kloberg was a lobbyist in a city whose stock in trade is image embellishment, and those who sought him out were some of the most infamous individuals on the planet.

Edward Joseph Kloberg (Edward von Kloberg), lobbyist: born New York 9 January 1942; died Rome 1 May 2005.

As they like to say in Washington, Edward von Kloberg III was a "go-to guy" - but not for the average honest citizen in need of a merited leg up. Von Kloberg was a lobbyist in a city whose stock in trade is image embellishment, and those who sought him out were some of the most infamous individuals on the planet.

Over the years the accounts at his Washington World Group, which he set up in 1982, included such clients as Saddam Hussein (whom von Kloberg called "utterly fascinating"), the Liberian strongman Samuel Doe, the Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu, prominent figures in sundry Central American military regimes, as well as the former Zairean dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, and Laurent Kabila, the man who overthrew him and retained von Kloberg's services for a reputed $500,000 (£260,000) a year.

And, it must be said, they not infrequently got value for money. Over the years von Kloberg won various trade concessions for Ceausescu (before his execution in December 1989). He was proud too of being instrumental in having Zaire removed from the UN Human Rights Oversight list that year.

Von Kloberg might have been a shameless self-promoter (who even added the "von" to his name in mid-life because "it sounded distinguished"). But no one accused him of not earning his money. He described himself as "an old-fashioned lobbyist", who did his homework and "gave a lot of dinners and lunches" besides.

He had his mishaps, most famously when he fell for a sting operation mounted by Spy magazine, which sent him a reporter pretending to be from a neo-Nazi group seeking a halt to immigration to Germany, the annexation of parts of Poland and much else beside. Gleefully, the magazine reported that von Kloberg expressed sympathy for his potential client - not to mention the $1m fee on offer. After the Spy affair, the Washington Post reported, he turned up at the opening of the magazine's Washington office sporting a trench helmet - "so I can take the flak".

Von Kloberg once summed up his philosophy as "Shame is for sissies". He saw his job as to give his clients the best advice: "If they're a basket-case, they need to know it. I never hide the warts, but show them what they can do better." And, he would note, much of his work was on behalf of dictators and strongmen who were then allies of the US government.

About the only client he turned down was Mohamed Farah Aideed, the Somali warlord whose proffered fee of $1m von Kloberg rebuffed on the grounds there was no way he could "turn around" the country. Otherwise, he believed, every client, however odious, deserved representation - just as the most heinous killer should have a lawyer in court. The difference, of course, was that the lobbyist was handsomely paid. The money supported a flamboyant life style that was a beacon of exoticism in a city where that commodity remains in very short supply.

Von Kloberg assiduously cultivated the aura of a more elegant age. He travelled first class, his personal trappings accompanying him in a retinue of steamer trunks. At home in Washington, his parties were lavish and stylish. His favoured garb was a black cape lined in red. He might greet guests clad in matching black slippers, decorated with a devil holding a pitchfork.

His death was suitably flamboyant. According to a State Department spokesman, he jumped to his death "from a castle in Rome".

Rupert Cornwell

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