Smith moved back into the White House in March 2009 as a special assistant to the president and a senior director of Obama's National Security Council, where she joined Rice as the key SPLM advocates in the administration. But Prendergast has turned into a media phenomenon, an activist-cum-celebrity whose specialty is recruiting celebrity-cum-activists. Prendergast's biggest catch of late is George Clooney, who has made Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir something of his own personal white whale. Clooney has swooped through Juba at least three times in the last two years to advocate for South Sudan's cause, meeting personally with Kiir, and has even invested his own money in a satellite service that publicly spies on Sudan. This sounds a lot like journalism on steroids, and there is definitely overlap. Clooney's eyes in the sky have visually confirmed several events on the ground. But, its satellites also have a clear agenda: Read through the group's reports, and while regularly publishing about Sudan's troop mobilizations near the border, it does not offer comparably critical scrutiny of South Sudan's forces, guilty of its own troop buildups, sometimes in violation of international agreements as well.
Clooney's star power provides multiple benefits: He dominates news coverage -- his visit to South Sudan during the January 2011 referendum headlined news coverage of the event -- thereby ensuring that Prendergast's narrative of events carries the day. He is also a powerful lobbying force inside Washington who can secure personal meetings with the president, and he uses those meetings to talk about Sudan. In March, Clooney and Prendergast were arrested protesting outside the Sudanese Embassy in Washington. It also doesn't hurt that Clooney is a major surrogate for Obama in Hollywood: This year, he hosted the largest single fundraising haul, $15 million, for the Obama campaign.
The Enough Project isn't the only effective advocate for the SPLM in Washington. Since the late 1980s, a core group of government officials worked behind the scenes to implement the policies that led to South Sudan's independence. Some have left government to advise the government directly. For instance, Roger Winter, the subject of a 2008 New York Times Magazine piece, was an official with the U.S. Agency for International Development under Clinton and the State Department's special Sudan representative under George W. Bush, and he still testifies before Congress on Sudan issues. After retiring in 2006, he stayed behind to serve as a volunteer advisor to the SPLM. "As one American that has had over 27 years of involvement in Sudan, it is my association with the SPLM and SPLA that I am most proud of," he said in a speech to the SPLM national convention in May 2008. In another example, Ted Dagne was an Africa specialist at the Congressional Research Service who forged close ties with Garang. Today, he works as an advisor to Kiir in Juba, where he labors in his prefab office and sometimes writes press releases on behalf of the South Sudanese government.
The heavy U.S. backing of the SPLM might be producing as many problems as it is resolving. "It makes them reckless," said Alex de Waal, a top Sudan scholar and an advisor to the African Union's mediation efforts between Sudan and South Sudan. "They think the rules don't apply to them." That behavior was most evident in April, when U.S. and African diplomatic officials told me South Sudan seemed genuinely blindsided by the global condemnation of its military offensive against Sudan.