Washington Babylon — February 8, 2009, 9:33 am

David Plouffe and the Call of Oil

Barack Obama took office just a few weeks ago and already David Plouffe, his campaign manager, appears to be doing quite well for himself. He’s already signed a lucrative book deal, which seems fair enough, but now he’s flying off to oil-rich Azerbaijan at the invitation of a pro-democracy front group that works closely with the ruling despot. According to Radio Free Europe, Plouffe will be giving a speech and also be meeting with President Ilham Aliyev, who inherited power from his father, a former KGB chieftain who took over the country when the Soviet Union collapsed.

Ilham Aliyev’s path to power is charted in his Wikipedia entry:

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Aliyev worked as a businessman in Moscow and Istanbul from 1991 to 1994. Around that time, media reports spread of his lifestyle allegedly involving gambling and women, and heavy debts to a Turkish casino owner. His father, Heydar Aliyev was reportedly unhappy at his son’s image as a playboy and the harm he felt this would do to his son’s prospects of succeeding him. Heydar Aliyev ordered the closure of all casinos in Azerbaijan in 1998.

In May 1994, ?lham Aliyev was appointed vice-president of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR). There was controversy that Aliyev had bribed his way into the ranks of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan. The following year ?lham was elected to parliament (Milli Majlis) and later became president of the National Olympic Committee (still incumbent) and head of the Azerbaijan delegation to the Council of Europe. In August 2003, two months prior to the presidential elections, he was appointed prime minister. In October, Heydar Aliyev, suffering failing health, stepped down as president and in a controversial move, appointed his son, an independent candidate, as his party’s sole presidential candidate.

(Note to readers complaining about use of Wikipedia: Please stop. The section in question is accurate and I have the right to be lazy on a Sunday afternoon.)

Plouffe was invited by the Association for Civil Society Development in Azerbaijan, which RFE describes as a “mouthpiece of the president’s office.” I wrote about the group in 2007, when it came on a government propaganda mission to Washington. As I wrote at the time:

As for the ACDSA, its website reveals that the group’s projects include cheerleader-type programs like “Baku is a Hero City” (which reeks of Soviet nostalgia) as well as more explicitly political ones, such as election monitoring and polling. In a poll conducted a few years ago, according to a 2005 New Republic story, the ACDSA found that “only 5.9 percent of those surveyed voted for opposition candidate Isa Gambar” when he ran against Aliyev. Yet, the story said, “official statistics gave Gambar 12 percent of the vote, and some foreign observers said that he garnered as much as 40 percent.”

I wonder if Plouffe will be getting paid for his “speech”? If so, is he really that hard-up for money?

Here’s more from RFE:

David Plouffe, who served as campaign manager for Barack Obama in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, is due to visit Azerbaijan on February 8. Plouffe is scheduled to speak at Baku’s Gerb (Western) University on February 9 and then meet with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and parliament speaker Oktay Asadov.

The U.S. Embassy in Baku confirmed Plouffe’s trip. Embassy spokesman Terry Davidson told RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service that “Plouffe is coming as a private citizen. The embassy is not in charge of his schedule.” The visit comes one month before a controversial referendum in Azerbaijan to lift the ban on presidential terms, making it possible for Aliyev to continue to serve as president.

Through an aide, Plouffe declined RFE/RL’s request for an interview. Plouffe.

Update: A Plouffe associate confirms details of the trip to Politico. He says Plouffe will be speaking to university students “about the 2008 election and the power of grassroots people to make change…He’ll be focusing on the power of democracy and what it means to people around the world.”

Spare us. Plouffe was invited by a pro-government group headed up by hacks loyal to the regime. Whatever his motivation is, and I could make a pretty good guess, democracy in not high on the list.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

Commentary November 17, 2015, 6:41 pm

Shaky Foundations

The Clintons’ so-called charitable enterprise has served as a vehicle to launder money and to enrich family friends.

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

February 2016

Isn’t It Romantic?

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Trusted Traveler

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Trouble with Iowa

The Queen and I

Disunified Front

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

We Don’t Have Rights, But We Are Alive

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Isn’t It Romantic?·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“He had paid for much of her schooling, something he cannot help but mention, since the aftermath of any failed relationship brings an ungenerous and impossible impulse to claw back one’s misspent resources.”
Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Article
The Trouble with Iowa·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“It seems to defy reason that this anachronistic farm state — a demographic outlier, with no major cities and just 3 million people, nine out of ten of them white — should play such an outsized role in American politics.”
Photograph (detail) © Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Article
Rule, Britannica·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“This is the strange magic of an arrangement of all the world’s knowledge in alphabetical order: any search for anything passes through things that have nothing in common with it but an initial letter.”
Artwork by Brian Dettmer. Courtesy the artist and P.P.O.W., New York City.
Article
The Queen and I·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Buckingham Palace is a theater in need of renovation. There is something pathetic about a fiercely vacuumed throne room. The plants are tired. Plastic is nailed to walls and mirrors. The ballroom is set for a ghostly banquet. Everyone is whispering, for we are in a mad kind of church. A child weeps.”
Photograph (detail) © Martin Parr/Magnum Photos
Article
We Don’t Have Rights, But We Are Alive·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“If I really wanted to learn about the Islamic State, Hassan told me, I ought to speak to his friend Samir, a young gay soldier in the Syrian Army who’d been fighting jihadis intermittently for the past four years.”
Photograph (detail) by Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty

Amount by which the number of government jobs in the U.S. exceeds the number of manufacturing jobs:

5,129,000

The sound of mice being clicked may induce seizures in house cats.

In Turlock, California, nearly 3,500 samples of bull semen were stolen from the back of a truck.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Two Christmas Mornings of the Great War

By

Civilization masks us with a screen, from ourselves and from one another, with thin depth of unreality. We habitually live — do we not? — in a world self-created, half established, of false values arbitrarily upheld, largely inspired by misconception, misapprehension, wrong perspective, and defective proportion, misapplication.

Subscribe Today