Posing as a shadowy emissary of a rich dictatorship, an investigative journalist approached a number of top lobbying firms in Washington DC and was promised with almost no questions asked all sorts of things–op-eds planted in newspapers, fake policy events hosted at think tanks, …-that shouldn’t be for sale in a democracy worth the name. It’s a fascinating expose, though one I find sadly unsurprising after my own sojourn in the Beltway.
Ken Silverstein of Harper’s Magazine visited Washington’s top lobbying firms posing as a representative of a fictitious investment firm with a financial stake in Turkmenistan. He claimed that he was eager to bolster the image of a regime widely described as one of the most authoritarian in the world. Two prominent firms fell for the bait, promising unparalleled access to Washington’s decision makers and improved media coverage—for a fee of up to $1.2 million.