The velocity with which the Payne scandal has burst out into US national media has been astonishing: only last Saturday night, a London Times story, slated for Sunday printing, revealed footage in which a George W. Bush friend of two decades was shown trying to sell access to top White House officials. But Stephen P. Payne's offer of access to the White House, in exchange for a several hundred thousand dollar donation to a controversial George W. Bush Presidential library and partisan think-tank planned for Southern Methodist University in Texas, may be only be the tip of the controversy.
Within roughly 36 hours the scandal has progressed from a Sunday London Times story, to the Internet, then to mainstream American media -- and less than two days after the initially breaking news US Congressman Henry Waxman has launched a House Oversight Committee investigation into Payne's offer, captured on video, of White House access in exchange for a donation to the planned George W. Bush presidential library. But Waxman's initial probe may turn up much more troubling findings:
If Stephen P. Payne's claims -- to have personally negotiated for the US government major arms deals and billion dollar financial packages while also being paid by foreign governments to arrange those deals -- hold true then American national security may have been compromised in ways that could take years to assess.
Before the concept of universal human rights disrupted the established order, when the Divine Right of Kings was still largely unquestioned, paying bribes to the king's courtiers, for access to the throne, would not have been unusual. But we are supposed to be living in the Age of Democracy, centuries beyond that time when commoners bowed and scraped before royal classes whose position was said to carry divine sanction. As the following emergent scandal suggests, to be a friend of Bush is to be an international prince beyond all normal human rules. American citizens, even those wearing extremely fancy clothing, cannot simply wander in off the street, to be photographed next to Pervez Mushareff or Vladimir Putin, and there are good and logical reasons why that is so.
For the very same reasons Secret Service personnel make sure strangers do not simply wander up to US presidents. It is a matter of national security. That is why we can dismiss, as ridiculous, suggestions by White House spokeswoman Dana Perrino to the effect that Stephen P. Payne's knack for appearing in photographs with globally significant leaders does not imply White House sanction, or George W. Bush's personal sanction, for Payne's apparently lucrative, top level private diplomatic juggernaut.
Early Saturday evening, EST, the Sunday London Times released a story, by investigative reporter Daniel Foggo, which was supported by damning secret footage taken at a meeting between Steven P. Payne and the former president of a West Asian nation. The deal Payne offered, caught on videotape, seemed straightforward enough -- a several hundred thousand dollar's donation, to the George W. Bush presidential library planned to be built at Southern Methodist University in Texas, could get access to key figures in the White House -- Dick Cheney or Condaleeza Rice.
Below: troublesome video, courtesy of Sunday London Times & Daniel Foggo:
But Stephen P. Payne's business brochure, for "Worldwide Strategic Partners", suggested that Payne's work had extended to a realm beyond the mere solicitation of big cash donations to a presidential library. Payne claims to have been negotiating international deals, on behalf of the Bush Administration, that can make or break entire nations and keep the peace or lead towards war.
TalkingPointsMemo has a report that cuts closer to the heart of this story than most mainstream media reports on the quickly gathering scandal that seems to have burst off the Internet in nearly record time:
A photo of Payne with Afghan President Hamid Karzai is featured in one of his firm's powerpoint slides.
Payne has helped Bush and Cheney when they visit the Middle East. He joined the president at the Red Sea Summit in Jordan in June 2003, serving as a "Senior Presidential Advance Representative," according to his firm's own description.
With the vice president, Payne has traveled to the Middle East in 2002 and 2005, to Korea in 2004, Kazakhstan in 2006, and Afghanistan for the inauguration of Afghan President Karzai.
Payne's firm says he's been a "governmental affairs consultant" representing Afghanistan, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Morgan Stanley, SAP Software, & Continental Airlines. He's also worked for Yukos Oil, Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
Below: White House spokeswoman Dana Perrino tries to discount Stephen P. Payne's 2 decade long association with George W. Bush
Stephen P. Payne has been photographed clearing brush with George W. Bush, at Bush's Crawford ranch, and Payne can been seen in pictures shooting with Dick Cheney. Payne appears, in a photo, next to a beaming Condaleeza Rice. Perhaps that is all the visual sanction Payne needed in order to convince possible clients of his geopolitical gravitas but Payne claims he actually played a role very similar to the role Henry Kissinger would have played during the Nixon Administration -- wheeling and dealing in the idiom of realpolitik, cutting deals of international import.
In effect, Payne seems to have been running his own shadow state department, a hybridized private venture in which Stephen Payne worked both as a lobbyist paid by foreign nations and also functioned as an official emissary or ambassador for the Bush Administration. In a confidential business brochure advertising his "Worldwide Strategic Partners" venture, Stephen Payne claims to have personally arranged the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan and also the renegotiation of billions of dollars in Pakistani foreign debt.
Below are textual excerpts from Stephen P. Payne's formerly confidential Worldwide Strategic Partners corporate advertising brochure [ PDF of brochure ]
Stephen P. Payne
Governmental Affairs Consultant Representing:
Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, Pakistan, Azerbaijan Morgan Stanley, SAP Software, & Continental Airlines
- The White House; Senior Presidential Advance Representative: Traveled with
President Bush to Jordan for the Red Sea Summit in June 2003, with Vice President Cheney to the Middle East in 2002 & 2005, Korea in 2004, Kazakhstan in 2006, and Afghanistan for the historic inauguration of Afghan President Karzai
- Board Member: National Defense University Foundation
- Deputy Director and Congressional Liaison: 2001 Presidential Inaugural Committee
- June 2007 appointment to the Department of Homeland Security's Secure Borders and Open Doors Advisory Committee
- Vice Chair, United States Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison 2000 & 2006 Campaigns
- Member, Homeland Security Advisory Council, member of Rice/Chertoff Commission on Visas, and Border protection and also a member of the Essential Technologies Task Force of DHS
- 2006 NATO Summit in Riga, Latvia, lead a think tank conference panel discussion on energy security and chaired a NATO Future Leaders Forum comprised of leaders from thirty-five NATO member and partner countries
Now, consider what Steven Payne's group was able accomplish for the government of Pakistan:
Pakistan : an International Relationship Transformed
Helped Pakistan negotiate a 5-year, $3 billion dollar aid package from the United States.
- Coordinated the removal of economic and military sanctions imposed on Pakistan under the Clinton Administration : Secured Pakistan the prestigious-"Major Non-NATO Ally Status" including : Japan, Australia, Israel, Egypt, South Korea, Kuwait, Argentina and the Philippines.
- At the request of the Pakistan Government, beginning November 2002, the Team began laying the ground work to secure an "invitation initiated by the White House" for a one-on-one meeting between President Musharraf and President Bush outside of Washington, D.C . As a result of the Team's continual conversations over the period of several months, with the highest levels of the U.S. Administration The Team arranged for the meeting at the prestigious and high profile location of Camp David: an unprecedented scheduling accomplishment.
- Assisted with a U.S./Pakistan Free Trade Agreement. Coordinated, structured and implemented a comprehensive plan to release Pakistan from US, IMF, World Bank debt through grants, aid, debt forgiveness, debt rescheduling and guarantees.
- After intensive coordinated efforts, Pakistan was finally able to purchase F-16 fighter jets (previously canceled under the Clinton Administration) and secured the delivery of C-130 transport aircrafts, helicopters and night-vision equipment from the U.S. to fulfill Pakistani military requirements.
". . . It gives me great pleasure to thank you for playing such an important role in strengthening US Pakistan ties . . .The challenges faced by both our countries in the aftermath of September 11th, brought us even closer, in which you played a pivotal role . . ."
-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf
Letter to Stephen Payne, Dated January 21, 2006. . .
Payne's business seems to represent the quintessence of what's wrong with the Bush Administration and American Democracy; government in secret, by and for the wealthy and powerful. The Watergate scandal involved merely the attempted subversion of the US electoral process, but PayneGate represents a much more basic subversion and corruption of American Democracy because democracy can only function to the extent that it is transparent.
Below: Stephen Payne's firm really helped out the government of Azerbaijan
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
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 - 2000 Presidential Candidate and Leader of the Christian Right