Bill Moyers Journal (PBS)
"Although there are distinct limits to what they can achieve, lobbyists are the crucial conduit through which pariah regimes advance their interests in Washington." --Ken Silverstein
Ken Silverstein, HARPER'S Magazine's Washington Editor, has for years been reporting on the questionable lobbying practices of certain Washington firms that advocate in Congress on behalf of corrupt foreign regimes.
For his latest article, he decided to pose as the representative of a fictitious investment group with business interests in Turkmenistan, and approached several prominent Washington lobbying firms to see how they might bolster the image of Turkmenistan as a viable international economic and diplomatic partner.
"The first step was to select a suitably distasteful would-be client. Given that my first pick, North Korea, seemed too reviled to be credible, I settled on the only slightly less Stalinist regime of Turkmenistan." And in hopes of raising even more red flags, Sliverstein claimed affiliation with The Maldon Group, a mysterious investment firm about which he would divulge little to no information (understandably since it does not really exist), only that it's involved in the Turkmen-Ukraine Natural Gas trade, "which has been marked by flagrant corruption - as can be ascertained by anyone who cares to perform a Google search."
After initially phoning and emailing with four companies, Silverstein eventually met with two prominent Washington firms: APCO and Cassidy & Associates, both of which prepared elaborate powerpoint presentations and written reports explaining why their firm was the best candidate to bolster the image of the new Turkmanistan government, with very few questions asked.
"It was a vision of just how regimes like Angola and Azerbaijan, Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea, the serial abrogator of 'human dignity,' can make and keep their wealthy American friends. Someday soon, perhaps, the same will happen for Turkmenistan - God and lobbyists willing."
To Listen to the Interview
Sliverstein's original Harper's articles:
Their men in Washington: Undercover with D.C.'s lobbyists for hire
Lobby Shops for Turkmenistan: Will lie for money
Check out Silverstein's blog that covers similar stories: