In addition to promising to release most White House visitor logs to the public, the Obama administration released nine pages of logs of former Vice President Dick Cheney’s visitors and some 250 pages from George W. Bush’s. The retroactive disclosures came in response to a lawsuit from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which sought records of meetings with evangelical leaders and Stephen Payne, a lobbyist who allegedly sold a foreign leader access to Cheney in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in “donations” to Bush’s presidential library.
Bush’s records show that evangelical leader Jerry Falwell, who died in May 2007, was a frequent White House visitor. Other names in the White House logs are American Values’ Gary Bauer; Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America; the Traditional Values Coalition’s Louis Sheldon and Andrea Lafferty; Heritage Foundation co-founder Paul Weyrich; Focus on the Family’s James Dobson; the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins; the American Family Association’s Donald Wildmon and Stephen Payne, a Sunlight review shows. The names Lindsey Paola and Elizabeth Sykes also appear.
Nearly the entirety of every page of Cheney’s log is blacked out, leaving only two visits from Payne, who also met with Karl Rove.
In July 2008, the Sunday Times reported that Payne had offered to arrange meetings for an unnamed former official of a central Asian country with top Bush administration officials, including Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Payne asked for between $600,000 and $750,000 in exchange, a third of which would go to the Bush library, with the balance to his lobbying firm, Worldwide Strategic Partners.
The Sunday Times later reported that Payne may have been paid by foreign officials for setting up other meetings with U.S. officials as early as 2005, including a 2006 trip Cheney took to Kazakhstan, where he met–and praised–Nursultan Nazarbayev, the authoritarian president of the former Soviet republic.
Worldwide Strategic Partners never registered under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, which requires firms and individuals that represent foreign governments, political parties, and government-controlled entities to disclose to the U.S. Department of Justice detailed accounts of their interactions with U.S. government officials. Payne was briefly registered as a foreign agent for Pakistan when we worked with a venture called Team Eagle–he helped broker a lucrative deal for the Islamic Republic in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. Records show that Payne filed short form disclosures–required of all individuals who lobby–in 2001 and again in 2007, but not in 2005 or 2006.
Payne does not appear in domestic lobbyist disclosure reports–filed with the House and Senate–since 2002, when he was paid $40,000 by SAP America, which lobbied on technology, homeland security and defense issues, and $40,000 by United Space Alliance.
Unlike campaign contributions, donations to presidential libraries are unrestricted in amount, donors do not have to be disclosed, and foreigners may contribute. Such donations arose as an issue during the lead-up to Hillary Clinton’s confirmation as secretary of state, when critics questioned whether foreign donations to her husband, former president Bill Clinton, might compromise her objectivity on international issues.