Turkmeniscam: How Washington Lobbyists Fought to Flack for a Stalinist Dictatorship

Turkmeniscam: How Washington Lobbyists Fought to Flack for a Stalinist Dictatorship

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by Ken Silverstein
     
 

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“As I have often said, I would represent the devil himself for the right price–it’s not personal, just business.”
–a Washington, D.C., lobbyist

For nearly as long as there have been politicians in the United States, there have been lobbyists haunting the halls of Congress–shaking hands, bearing gifts, and brandishing

Overview

“As I have often said, I would represent the devil himself for the right price–it’s not personal, just business.”
–a Washington, D.C., lobbyist

For nearly as long as there have been politicians in the United States, there have been lobbyists haunting the halls of Congress–shaking hands, bearing gifts, and brandishing agendas. Everyone knows how the back-scratching game of money, power, and PR is played. For a good enough offer, there are those who will gladly dive into the dirtiest political waters. The real question is: Just how low will they sink? Veteran investigative journalist Ken Silverstein made it his mission to find out–and “Turkmeniscam” was born.

On assignment for Harper’s magazine, and armed with a fistful of fake business cards, Silverstein went deep undercover as a corporate henchman with money to burn and a problem to solve: transforming the former Soviet-bloc nation Turkmenistan–branded “one of the worst totalitarian systems in the world”–into a Capitol Hill-friendly commodity. Even in the notoriously ethics-challenged world of Washington’s professional lobbying industry, could “Kenneth Case” (Silverstein’s fat-cat alter ego) find a team of D.C. spin doctors willing to whitewash the regime of a megalomaniac dictator with an unpronounceable name and an unspeakable reputation? Would the Beltway’s best and brightest image-mongers shill for a country condemned for its mind-boggling history of corruption, brutality, and civil rights abuse?

Who would dare tread in the ignoble footsteps of Ivy Lee, the pioneering PR guru who sought to make the Nazis look nice? And who would stoop to unprecedented new lows to conquer Congress and compromise the red, white, and blue for the sake of the almighty green? As Ken Silverstein discovers in this mordantly funny, disturbingly enlightening, jaw-dropping exploration of the dark side, the real question is: Who wouldn’t?


Praise for The Radioactive Boy Scout

“Alarming . . . The story fascinates from start to finish.”
–Outside

“An astounding story . . . [Silverstein] has a novelist’s eye for meaningful detail and a historian’s touch for context.”
–The San Diego Union-Tribune

“[Silverstein] does a fabulous job of letting David [Hahn’s] surrealistic story tell itself. . . . But what’s truly amazing is how far Hahn actually got in the construction of his crude nuclear reactor.”
–The Columbus Dispatch

“Enthralling . . . [The Radioactive Boy Scout] has the quirky pleasures of a Don DeLillo novel or an Errol Morris documentary. . . . An engaging portrait of a person whose life on America’s fringe also says something about mainstream America.”
–Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Amazing . . . unsettling . . . should come with a warning: Don’t buy [this book] for any obsessive kids in the family. It might give them ideas.”
–Rocky Mountain News


From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Harper's Washington editor Silverstein (The Radioactive Boy Scout, 2004, etc.) takes an informative, smart-alecky look at the lengths to which lobbying firms will go to get clients. The book is based on his undercover reporting for the magazine. Silverstein invented a company interested in promoting Turkmenistan's image in the United States so that it could attract investors to energy projects in the former Soviet Union. In edgy prose he describes the people he met and the places he visited, also providing plenty of biographical and campaign-finance factoids. His report will confirm many people's worst fears about the influence business, whose members display considerable willingness to work for repressive regimes (as long as they or their allies can write checks) and a tendency to shade the truth when dealing with the media. While this material worked well as a magazine article, it's a bit skimpy for a full-length book, so the author augments the narrative of his investigation with a lengthy history of lobbying. This synthesis of existing material doesn't always cohere. Silverstein's undercover effort was controversial when the article first came out, among some journalists as well as most of the lobbying community. He defends his approach as the only way to get the true story and also takes issue with those who put balance above all other values when judging reporting. " ‘Balanced' is not fair, it's just an easy way of avoiding real reporting (as well as charges of bias) and shirking our responsibility to inform readers," he contends. Nobody will accuse Silverstein of evenhandedness, since he never gives the lobbyists a chance to defend their tactics. Readable and well-reported, thoughopenly partisan. Agent: Melanie Jackson/Melanie Jackson Agency

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781588367549
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/23/2008
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
224
File size:
366 KB

Meet the Author

Ken Silverstein is the author of The Radioactive Boy Scout. The Washington editor of Harper’s magazine, he is a former investigative reporter for the Washington, D.C., bureau of the Los Angeles Times. Silverstein has also written for Mother Jones, The Nation, and The American Prospect, among other publications. He lives in Washington.


From the Hardcover edition.

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