Washington Babylon — July 14, 2008, 10:34 am

Worldwide Strategic Shakedown Partners

Make sure to read through all of the documents posted by the Sunday Times relating to the journalism sting it pulled on lobbyist Stephen Payne, which I linked to yesterday. The Times set up a meeting between Payne and “Eric Dos,” a man allegedly seeking to arrange an official Washington visit for Askar Akayev, the former president of Kyrgyzstan. In order to get meetings with high-ranking Bush administration officials, Payne suggested “making a contribution to the Bush library. It would be like, maybe a couple of hundred thousand dollars, or something like that.”

The Times posted a glossy confidential brochure for Payne’s firm, Worldwide Strategic Partners, which detailed its alleged prior activities on behalf of the government of Azerbaijan. In it, Worldwide Strategic claims to have worked with “members of the Helsinki Commission to reduce the negative language in the U.S. press release” following elections in Azerbaijan that were widely condemned as fraudulent; and implemented “an aggressive media campaign to discredit the Azeri opposition.”

The brochure also says it 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 (I wrote about her for my undercover story on lobbyists for Harper’s last year); and Gary Bauer, the leader from the Christian right (whose name was misspelled in the brochure). The Times also posted great video footage of the meeting with Payne.

The question remains of when The Washington Post‘s Howard Kurtz will denounce the Sunday Times. For Kurtz, undercover reporting is always wrong since “no matter how good the story, lying to get it raises as many questions about journalists as their subjects.”–even if the subject is brazenly seeking to sell access to the U.S. government.

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