Money? Was Anything Said About Money?

By Michael Abramowitz
Monday, July 14, 2008

A lobbyist and onetime Bush "pioneer" was surreptitiously taped by the Times of London suggesting that a foreign dignitary looking to meet with senior White House officials contribute a "couple of hundred thousand dollars" to the Bush library being built at Southern Methodist University.

The Houston lobbyist, Steve Payne, raised more than $100,000 for George W. Bush's election in 2000 and another $200,000 for his reelection, according to Texans for Public Justice.

According to the Times, Payne met last Monday with a Kazakh politician. The politician reportedly told him he was representing Askar Akayev, the former president of Kyrgyzstan, who was looking to rehabilitate himself by meeting with senior administration officials.

"I think that some things could be done," said Payne, adding: "I think that the family, children, whatever [of Akayev], should probably look at making a contribution to the Bush library."

While a Bush visit might be difficult to arrange, Payne said, "[Vice President] Cheney's possible, definitely the national security adviser [Stephen Hadley], definitely either Dr. [Condoleezza] Rice or . . . deputy secretary [John Negroponte] is possible."

Unfortunately for Payne, a Times reporter posing undercover witnessed and taped the meeting. When confronted, the newspaper reported, Payne said there would be "no quid pro quo" for any donation.

Administration officials and their allies described Payne as a bit player who worked for some time as a volunteer advance man. He's not a "big player," said one Bush fundraiser, but "he's convinced a lot of these Eastern European countries that he's a big player." Asked about the report, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said "there's no connection between any official administration actions and the library."

That's What It Says -- We Think

When President Bush and other world leaders get together, it sometimes seems you need a Talmudic scholar to parse the jargon that emerges. Consider a key sentence from last week's Group of Eight communique on global warming from Japan:

"We seek to share with all Parties to the UNFCCC the vision of, and together with them to consider and adopt in the UNFCCC negotiations, the goal of achieving at least 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050, recognizing that this global challenge can only be met by a global response, in particular, by the contributions from all major economies, consistent with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities."

That's the sentence in which Bush for the first time agreed to a longtime goal for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of saying this upfront, the negotiators settled on this formulation to cover political bases.

White House aide Daniel M. Price said one purpose of the sentence is to make it clear that the G-8 is not dictating what a new climate change treaty will look like. Hence, the summiteers agreed to seek "to share" a "vision" with other countries about a long-term goal, as opposed to simply stating a goal.

From the White House point of view, a key line is the statement that the global challenge "can only be met by a global response, in particular, by the contributions of all major economies." With that line, the other G-8 countries recognized Bush's long-standing position that developing countries such as China must help solve the problem.

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