- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Homeland Security officials and House investigators are looking into claims that a member of the department’s advisory council offered to arrange meetings with senior administration officials in exchange for a large donation to the Bush presidential library.

Stephen Payne, a major Republican Party fundraiser and international affairs lobbyist, also touted his success in getting an Uzbek opposition leader removed from the U.S. terrorist watch list and issued a U.S. visa.

“This is a horribly unfortunate story,” said Homeland Security Spokeswoman Laura Keehner. “We are looking into the facts.” She declined to comment further.

Mr. Payne was appointed to the Homeland Security Advisory Council’s subcommittee on “secure borders and open doors” by Secretary Michael Chertoff in August.

Last week, he was video-taped by the London Sunday Times offering to arrange meetings for an exiled former president of Kyrgyzstan with Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

“The exact budget I will come up with,” Mr. Payne said, “but it will be somewhere between $600,000 and $750,000, with about a third of it going directly to the Bush library.”

Mr. Payne, who believed he was meeting with a representative of former Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev, ousted in a people power-type revolution in 2005, called the money “not a huge amount but enough to show that they’re serious.”

In fact, he had been set up by the intermediary, Yerzhan Dosmukhamedov, known as Eric Dos, a Kazakh politician with whom he had worked before, and was taped by an undercover Sunday Times reporter.

In a statement, Mr. Payne, who has served as a volunteer travel-advance planner for White House trips abroad and accompanied Mr. Cheney to the inauguration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, called the report a “worst-case example of ‘gotcha’ journalism.”

“The (Sunday) Times attempted to entrap me,” he said, denying that there was any quid pro quo for the donation.

Mr. Payne released a series of e-mail exchanges that followed the meeting, which he said “In contrast to the surreptitiously taped conversation … reflect the basis of the more formal discussion and reflect the inquires made by Mr. Dos to establish a quid pro quo and my consistent responses that there could be no quid pro quo.”

“Anyone that tells you ‘I can deliver a U.S. Government action in exchange for specific funds’ is someone you will soon visit in prison,” he told Mr. Dos in one of the e-mails. “That would be bribery in this country.”

On Monday, Democratic Rep. Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform wrote to Mr. Payne, saying that he would investigate the allegations.

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