Lobbyist-arranged Op-eds?


HARPER’S Magazine

July 15, 8:37 AM, 2008 · Washington Babylon · Previous · Next
Lobbyist-arranged Op-eds?
By Ken Silverstein

Following up on that Sunday Times of London story about its sting on
lobbyist Stephen Payne, regarding the former administration official
caught seeking to sell access to the White House, The Times posted a
confidential brochure prepared by Payne’s firm, Worldwide Strategic
Partners, which detailed its alleged prior activities on behalf of the
government of Azerbaijan.

The brochure said the firm worked closely with a number of people to
`boost positive U.S . public perception about Azerbaijan,’ including:
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison; A. Elizabeth Jones, a former State
Department official and now a lobbyist at APCO Associates; and Gary
Bauer, the Christian right leader. The brochure said the three had
written friendly op-eds on behalf of Azerbaijan. Here are what may be
the three (or at least three of) the op-eds the brochure referred to:

June 11, 2005, op-ed by Kay Bailey Hutchinson

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita wrought an enormous amount of human
suffering. The destructive storms also demonstrated the need for
the US to identify new sources of energy¦ One nation holds great
promise. Azerbaijan, located between Russia and Iran, sits atop
major proven oil reserves on the coast of the Caspian Sea.

September 13, 2005, op-ed by Gary Bauer:

Azerbaijan, the former Soviet republic located directly between
Russia and Iran, has worked for a decade to align itself with
the U.S. and Europe through a continuing process of
democratization and economic engagement. Azerbaijan has also
been a firm supporter of the U.S.-led war on terror, signing
every one of the international counter-terrorism conventions and
protocols tracked by the U.S. State Department.

November 2, 2005, Elizabeth Jones:

Azerbaijan, a nation with a Turkic and majority-Muslim
population that regained independence after the collapse of the
Soviet Union in 1991, has parliamentary elections scheduled Nov.
6. President Ilham Aliyev has worked hard to avoid the missteps
of the election in 2003 and correct the problems that election
observers catalogued then. His stated goal is assuring an
environment during the election campaign, culminating on the day
of the vote, which can be fairly judged to have promoted a free
and fair election. Steps taken by his government to date are

All terribly upbeat op-eds about a government still best known for
rigging elections and massive corruption. But arranging these sorts of
opinion pieces, as I disclosed in my undercover story for Harper’s last
year, is all in a day’s work for Washington lobbyists. APCO, one of the
firms I met with, told me it had one person on staff who did nothing but
plant opinion pieces, and had succeeded in placing thousands of them.

By the way, my book based on the lobbying story, `Turkmeniscam: How
Washington Lobbyists Fought to Flack for a Stalinist Dictatorship’ will
be published on September 23 and promoted here without relent between
now and then.