The Sunday Times reports Stephen Payne, a Bush pioneer and a political appointee to the Homeland Security Advisory Council, was caught on tape offering access to key members of the Bush administration inner circle in exchange for “six-figure donations to the private library being set up to commemorate Bush’s presidency.”
In an undercover video, Payne is seen promising to arrange a meeting for an exiled leader of Krygystan with Dick Cheney or Condoleezza Rice. (Not President Bush because “he doesn’t meet with a lot of former Presidents these days,” Payne says. “I don’t think he meets with hardly anyone.”) All it will take for him to arrange this high-level meeting, says Payne, is “a couple hundred thousand dollars, or something like that”:
PAYNE: The exact budget I will come up with. But it will be somewhere between $600,000 and $750,000, with about a third of it going directly to the Bush library. [...]
200, 250, something like that. That’s gonna be a show of “we’re interested, we’re your friends, we’re still friends.”
Watch the startling video here.
The Times reports, “The revelation confirms long-held suspicions that favours are being offered in return for donations to the libraries which outgoing presidents set up to house their archives and safeguard their political legacies.” Bush loyalists previously said they had “identified wealthy heiresses, Arab nations and captains of industry as potential ‘mega’ donors” to the Bush library.
The Department of Homeland Security website reports that the “Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) provides advice and recommendations to the Secretary on matters related to homeland security.” Payne has been a member of the council since August 2007.
In Jan. 2008, Payne — an early supporter of Rudy Giuliani — said he would throw his support to John McCain if Giuliani dropped out. A personal friend of Bush, Payne has helped clear brush on the Crawford Ranch with the President (see the picture on the right).
Payne is President of Worldwide Strategic Partners. His bio on a cached version of the consulting firm’s site says Payne served as “George W. Bush’s personal travel aide during his father’s 1988 Presidential campaign.” It adds, “Currently, Mr.
Payne assists the White House as a Senior Advance Representative traveling internationally in advance of and with
President Bush and Vice President Cheney.”