Washington Babylon — June 15, 2010, 9:18 am

Huffington Post Allows Lobbyist to Take Dictator Out for Spin on its Site

A new story in AzeriReport describes how a lobbyist for the corrupt government of Azerbaijan used the Huffington Post as a bulletin board. The lobbyist in question is Jason Katz of the Tool Shed Group, which advises the government of Azerbaijan. (This is not the place for a discussion of that country’s horrible human rights record, but if you’re interested consult this State Department report.)

It seems, based on the story, that “the Santa Fe mayor’s office was initially asked to issue a birthday proclamation for the late president of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev,” at the request of the Tool Shed Group LLC.

The Tool Shed Group of Jason Katz also provided misleading information to the Mayoral Office of Santa Fe about the role of Heydar Aliyev, stating that he “extricated Azerbaijan from the Soviet Union” and that he was “the first leader of the modern post-Soviet Azerbaijan”.

In reality, Heydar Aliyev was only the third president of post-Soviet Azerbaijan…and by the time Heydar Aliyev came to power in a 1993 coup, Azerbaijan was already an independent country after the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, was formally recognized by the UN and all major world-powers and its territory had long been free from any Russian/ Soviet troops.

As was reported earlier, Santa Fe mayor David Coss issued the proclamation designating May 10 as Heydar Aliyev Day. The mayor’s office later backtracked on its own proclamation by stating that “a proclamation for “Heydar Aliyev” will not be prepared again from the mayor’s office”.

It turns out that back on April 15, Katz had used the Huffington Post to write an idiotic item about Azerbaijan, in which he attacked an Azeri opposition figure who had recently penned an op-ed for the Washington Post.

Katz’s piece, “An Odd Voice from a Noble Land,” is a PR handout — or blow job, to be less polite — for his firm’s client:

I have traveled to Azerbaijan many times and found a progressive, cosmopolitan, open, secular and Western-oriented society. In fact, Azerbaijan is a charming mix of Eastern and Western societies that even makes for an ideal vacation destination…It is none other than President Ilham Aliyev…who has spearheaded the many infrastructure projects in Azerbaijan from social services to industrial agriculture to modern highways and roads to petrochemicals to energy production…all providing the prosperity deserving of a nation as progressive as Azerbaijan.

Does the Huffington Post allow anyone to write for its site? Can any lobbyist use it to produce PR for his or her clients?

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I sat in a taxi with Emma and her son, Stak, all three bodies muscled into the rear seat, and the boy checked the driver’s I.D. and immediately began to speak to the man in an unrecognizable language.

I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

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