“Library” Rhymes with “Bribery,” Ted Stevens Edition

The story of Stephen Payne–who just got canned from his DHS Advisory Committee position because he was selling access in exchange for donations to the Bush Library–makes it clear what a cesspool of political corruption secret and unlimited donations to Presidential libraries can be.

Which is why it is utterly unsurprising that Ted Stevens, a standout in corruption even in Alaska, has placed a hold on a bill designed to make the donations to Presidential libraries transparent.

The argument for keeping the names of donors secret is that some admirers might not want their generosity on public display. But a presidential library is no ordinary charity. It is built with private money and turned over to the National Archives to operate. If requiring disclosure might deter a generous patron with a penchant for anonymity from giving, so be it.

There ought to be a law. Actually, there would be one if it weren’t for Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska. A measure requiring disclosure of library donations — during a presidency and for four years afterward — has twice passed the House. But Stevens blocked the measure in March, arguing that it was unfair to "change the rules" on Bush — even as library officials claim they haven’t really started fundraising.

I mean, I can totally understand how, to a guy like Ted Stevens, asking the President to refrain from selling our foreign policy to the highest bidder would seem like "changing the rules."

Which is why I’m glad the Blue America-endorsed Mark Begich, the guy running to replace Stevens, is making it a campaign issue.

The American people deserve to know who is giving money to politicians at all levels of government, but especially the presidency. It’s time for Senator Stevens to stop blocking legislation that would require fundraising for presidential libraries be done out in the open. This move – on legislation that has already passed the House – is yet another instance where Stevens is choosing secrecy over transparency. He should lift his hold and let the light of day into back into Washington.

It’s hard to embarrass a guy like Ted Stevens. But I’m all in favor of piling on the charges of corruption against Mr. Toobz.

Waxman Notes: “Bribery” Rhymes with “Library”

Well, close enough for PhDs in Comparative Literature…

Man, Waxman must have been preoccupied with submitting his report on Pat Tillman’s death. He was about five hours behind the time when I predicted the letter in response to the Bush Library bribery story would be sent.

Dear Mr. Payne:

I am writing regarding a report that you solicited funds for the George W. Bush Presidential Library in return for access to senior U.S. foreign policy officials. This is a matter that the Oversight Committee will investigate.

According to the Times of London, you solicited funds for President Bush’s library from foreign interests. Specifically, you reportedly offered access to several senior U.S. government officials, including Vice President Cheney, in return for six-figure contributions to the library.

If true, this report raises serious concerns about the ways in which foreign interests might be secretly influencing our government through large donations to the library. Under current law, there are few restrictions on efforts to raise funds for presidential libraries. For example, there are no limits on how much can be raised for a single source, and there is no requirement that donations be disclosed publicly. As a result, a presidential library can solicit secret donations from companies and foreign interests that seek to surreptitiously influence government action. In order to prevent abuses of this kind, the House of Representatives passed legislation last year that requires disclosure of information about donors to presidential libraries.

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Does Ray Hunt Do This Kind of Fund-Raising, Too?

Via TP, the Sunday Times (of London) has an explosive video, showing Bush crony Stephen Payne effectively selling State Department endorsements for former Central Asian Presidents in exchange for six figure donations to the Bush Library.

A lobbyist with close ties to the White House is offering access to key figures in George W Bush’s administration in return for six-figure donations to the private library being set up to commemorate Bush’s presidency.

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.


Asked by an undercover reporter who the politician would be able to meet for that price, Payne said: “Cheney’s possible, definitely the national security adviser [Stephen Hadley], definitely either Dr Rice or . . . I think a meeting with Dr Rice or the deputy secretary [John Negroponte] is possible . . .

“The main thing is that he [the Asian politician] comes, and he’s well received, that he meets with high-level people . . . and we send positive statements made back from the administration about ‘This guy wasn’t such a bad guy, many people have done worse’.”

As Kagro X notes, there’s a name for this: it’s called B-R-I-B-E-R-Y.

Now perhaps this is not common practice for those raising funds for Bush’s Library. And perhaps it’s not common practice for those appointed to national security advisory committees like the Homeland Security Advisory Committee (on which Payne serves) or the Presidential Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. But I can’t help but note the similar profile between Payne–who is apparently selling influence–and Ray Hunt. Of course, Hunt isn’t dealing lobbying contracts with dubious foreign figures. Rather, he’s making oil deals. And for some reason, the State Department not only overlooked the fact that Hunt’s premature deal with Kurdistan might destabilize Iraq, but they pointed Hunt Oil to new business elsewhere in Iraq.

Gosh. The State Department sure does like Bush’s cronies who come up with big chunks of cash for Bush’s library, doesn’t it?