Update Thursday, October 25, 2007: This story was correct in identifying APCO as Kazakhstan’s lobbying firm, and the firm did dispatch several lobbyists to the hearings. But I have no evidence that APCO helped set up the hearings or improperly influenced them. I regret the error. Full correction.
“APCO PICKS UP ‘BORAT’ ACCOUNT,” is the headline from an article posted today on odwyerpr.com. The story recounts that APCO–the firm that so desperately wanted to whitewash the reputation of Stalinist Turkmenistan when I approached them earlier this year with bags of non-existent cash–has been paid $487,777 this year to represent the energy-rich regime of Nursultan Nazarbayev.
After I exposed their money-grubbing, APCO sought to lie its way out of the embarrassing situation by claiming that it never really intended to represent Turkmenistan (despite the groveling emails the firm had sent me offering to do just that). APCO’s high ethical standards apparently don’t keep it from working for Nazarbayev, who recently took steps that effectively make him president-for-life. And more money looks to be in the pipeline. APCO, odwyerpr.com reports, “is hammering out final details in an agreement to provide global PR for energy rich Kazakhstan, the former Soviet Union state that was featured in the movie ‘Borat’.”
I suspect (but can’t confirm) that Elizabeth Jones, one of the APCO lobbyists with whom I met, helped sign up the Kazakh account. She’s a former U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan and also previously served as the State Department’s senior advisor for Caspian Sea energy diplomacy.
Just today, hearings were held at Congress on Kazakhstan’s bid to chair the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
I’m told by a source on the Hill that APCO played a role in setting up the hearings. Nazarbayev’s regime has been trying for the past four years to head up the OSCE, but its efforts have always been blocked because of the country’s poor record on human rights and democratization. Winning the bid for Kazakhstan is clearly high on the agenda of APCO’s lobbyists.