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July 14, 2008

Pay-to-play lobbyist Stephen P. Payne makes Jack Abramoff look like a piker

The Sunday Times caught politically-connected lobbyist Stephen Payne on tape suggesting that a $250,000 donation George W. Bush presidential library could help secure access to senior administration officials.

Perhaps even more incredible is the Worldwide Strategic Partners brochure that ran with the expose. [Download payne.pdf]

Here's what WSP claims to have done for Azerbaijan, verbatim, from the last page of the brochure, emphases added:

I. Arranged for the President of Azerbaijan to visit the U.S . and meet with President Bush - a task the Azeri government had been trying for over 3 years

II. Arranged a private phone call between the Vice-President of the United States and the President of Azerbaijan, prior to the Azeri Elections in November of 2005

III. Arranged a series of meetings for the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan during his September visit to the U.S.

IV. Worked with members of the Helsinki Commission to reduce the negative language in the U.S. press release following the November Elections

V. Implemented an aggressive media campaign to discredit the Azeri opposition candidates, allowing the government for freedom in enforcing election curfews and laws.

VI. Arranged several articles and speeches to be placed into the U.S . Congressional record

VII. Helped create/write the Silk Road II legislation

VIII . Developed a series of Op-Ed's written by influential U.S . officials to boost positive U.S. public perception about Azerbaijan including:

I. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)
II . A. Elizabeth Jones - Former Assistant Secretary of State -Europe and Eurasia
III. Gary Buaer (sic)- 2000 Presidential Candidate and Leader of the Christian Right

Arranging for articles and speeches to be placed in the Congressional Record echoes the tactics of Republican super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. One of Abramoff's specialties was "inducing" legislators to insert items into the Congressional Record.

Abramoff and his team stole some tribal elections (Slate of Eight, anyone?), but their accomplishments in that domain pale compared to WSP.

Worldwide Strategic Partners claims to have mounted an aggressive campaign to discredit opposition parties in the Azeri elections, thereby enabling the government to enforce election curfews. Sounds like a euphemism for destroying the opposition so that the government could violate the law with impunity.

According to Human Rights Watch, the Azeri government stole the 2003 election:

The government clearly stole the election, and then brutally beat hundreds of people who poured out in the streets in protest. The day after the election, I watched from the roof of a hotel in Baku as thousands of riot police beat protesters unconscious. Afterward the riot police raised their shields to the sky and turned their batons into drumsticks, celebrating the victory of intimidation.

Now hundreds have been arrested, while Isa Gambar, the opposition leader, is effectively under house arrest and activists from his Musavat party are being beaten and detained all over the country. Everyone I speak to is scared.

The violence surrounding the election was shocking yet predictable, as the government for years has shut the opposition out of the political process. In the months leading up to the poll, Azerbaijani authorities blatantly manipulated the electoral process to ensure that Ilham Aliyev would inherit his father's presidency. The opposition had nowhere to go but the streets.

More astonishing, however, were the public assessments of the election made by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe. Their election-monitoring missions in Azerbaijan took due note of the violence and election irregularities, but their overall appraisals were alarmingly upbeat. The OSCE mission chief, Giovanni Kessler, said the election showed "an increased vitality of political life and serious efforts in Azerbaijan towards democracy and international standards.” Meanwhile, the head of the Council of Europe's parliamentary delegation, Guillermo Martínez Casañ, said he hoped the election could "mark the beginning of a new era in Azerbaijan in which progress could be achieved through cooperation of all democratic forces in the country." [HRW]

Maybe Worldwide Strategic Partners had something to do with the mild reactions of the international community to the stolen election.

I'm barely scratching the surface of the brochure, which I encourage readers to peruse for themselves.

[Read my original report on Stephen Payne, here.]


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When I read this story, my first thought was "Uncle Duke!"

Not sure if it's life imitating art or the other way around.

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