Fundraising for a presidential library has always been controversial, in part because, unlike contributions to U.S. political campaigns, donations to libraries can come from foreign sources, and are easier to conceal.
But this kind of corruption is striking, even by the Bush administration's standards.
The Sunday Times reports Stephen Payne, a Bush pioneer and a political appointee to the Homeland Security Advisory Council, was caught on tape offering access to key members of the Bush administration inner circle in exchange for "six-figure donations to the private library being set up to commemorate Bush's presidency."
In an undercover video, Payne is seen promising to arrange a meeting for an exiled leader of Krygystan with Dick Cheney or Condoleezza Rice. (Not President Bush because "he doesn't meet with a lot of former Presidents these days," Payne says. "I don't think he meets with hardly anyone.") All it will take for him to arrange this high-level meeting, says Payne, is "a couple hundred thousand dollars, or something like that."
Specifically, Payne tells a Kazakh politician he knew as Eric Dos that Payne would come up with "the exact budget," which would be "somewhere between $600,000 and $750,000, with about a third of it going directly to the Bush library." The contribution would "be a show of ‘we're interested, we're your friends, we're still friends.'"
The TimesOnline piece makes no specific mention of the politician that Dos is representing, but both Benen and BooMan narrow it down to former Krygystan President Askar Akayev, and possibly a motive as well:
(T)he prospective client who is being asked to pony up $600,000 - $750,000 ($200,000-$250,000 of which will go to the Bush Library) is former President Askar Akayev, as he is the only exiled former president of Kyrgyzstan in existence. Akayev's human rights record is mixed. For the region, it was better than average, but in the years just prior to his ouster he began to restrict and harass political and media freedoms.↓ Story continues below ↓
The Times of London sting operation is curious. The video shows a meeting between Stephen Payne, [who is a Bush pioneer, a political appointee to the Homeland Security Advisory Council, and a Senior Advance Representative traveling internationally in advance of and with President Bush and Vice President Cheney], an unidentified representative of Askar Akayev, and an undercover reporter who is surreptitiously videotaping the conversation. It appears that the latter two gentleman colluded in setting up the sting and that part of the agreement was that the Times would not mention Akayev's name or country in print. What possible motivation would Akayev have to embarrass the Bush administration? Let's look at who Akayev blamed for his ouster:
The ousted Kyrgyzstan president, Askar Akayev, last night accused the US of being behind the "anti-constitutional coup" which forced him to flee the country last week, and said he wold only resign if given sufficient a guarantee of his personal safety.
I believe we have what is known as payback time, ladies and gentlemen.