Stephen Payne, a “GOP lobbyist and fundraiser with close ties to the White House has quit a Homeland Security Department advisory committee following allegations of influence peddling and quid pro quo donations to the Bush presidential library,” UPI reports:
Department spokeswoman Laura Keehner confirmed to United Press International that Stephen Payne was asked to resign. [...]
“The department asked him to step down” from his post on the Secure Borders and Open Doors Subcommittee of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, Keehner said, declining to comment on the reasons.
[Payne] said he had resigned from the advisory council because “under the current circumstances there will be too many distractions for me to successfully focus on (its) important work.”
Both DHS and the House Oversight Committee have opened investigations into Payne’s activities. The watchdog group CREW is urging the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into Payne and his relationship with the Bush administration. (HT: TPM)
The Austin American-Statesman reports that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s relationship with Payne is raising some ethics issues. Payne may have drafted an op-ed in 2005 that was published in Hutchinson’s name which helped promote his clients in Azerbaijan:
What also remains murky is Payne’s role in a 2005 opinion piece that Hutchison authored for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. It was headlined “Azerbaijan: Opportunity for America,” and in it Hutchison writes that the country “holds great promise” as an oil source in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Payne brags in materials for his business that he “developed” a series of op-eds promoting the country, including one by Hutchison.
Hutchison’s current staff contends that it does not know the precise origins of the column she wrote promoting Azerbaijan, although her spokesman says she was heavily involved. Chris Paulitz, her communications director at the time, declined to comment today on Payne’s role in writing the piece.