Monday, July 21, 2008

Is Bush's Central Asia Policy for Sale?

Josh Foust of called our attention to this story in the Times of London about an alleged scheme to pay for access to top Bush administration officials, on behalf of toppled Kyrgyz president Askar Akayev--in exchange for donations to the Bush Presidential Library:
Stephen Payne, who claims to have raised more than $1m for the president’s Republican party in recent years, said he would arrange meetings with Dick Cheney, the vice-president, Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, and other senior officials in return for a payment of $250,000 (£126,000) towards the library in Texas.

Payne, who has accompanied Bush and Cheney on several foreign trips, also said he would try to secure a meeting with the president himself.

The revelation confirms long-held suspicions that favours are being offered in return for donations to the libraries which outgoing presidents set up to house their archives and safeguard their political legacies.

Unlike campaign donations, there is no requirement to disclose the donors to the libraries, no limit on the amount that can be pledged and no restrictions on foreigners contributing.

During an undercover investigation by The Sunday Times, Payne was asked to arrange meetings in Washington for an exiled former central Asian president. He outlined the cost of facilitating such access.

“The exact budget I will come up with, but it will be somewhere between $600,000 and $750,000, with about a third of it going directly to the Bush library,” said Payne, who sits on the US homeland security advisory council.

He said initially that the “family” of the Asian politician should make the donation. He later added that if all the money was paid to him he would make the payment to the Bush library. Publicly, it would appear to have been made in the politician’s name “unless he wants to be anonymous for some reason”.

Payne said the balance of the $750,000 would go to his own lobbying company, Worldwide Strategic Partners (WSP).
Video here from YouTube: