A Republican fundraiser, Stephen Payne, was secretly filmed by The Times of London apparently soliciting a donation for President Bush's presidential library in return for access to top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Payne said the newspaper distorted the conversation. (Dallas Morning News)
What the commentators said
Presidential libraries are now the “black bag of American politics,” said Rick Casey in the Houston Chronicle. The reason is easy enough to understand: “Unlike campaign contributions, gifts to foundations that build monuments to presidential egos can be kept secret.”
“This is an underappreciated scandal of bipartisan dimensions,” said Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post. “Bill Clinton did it”—remember how he pardoned Marc Rich after Rich’s ex-wife donated $450,000 to Clinton's presidential library? I’m not suggesting the administration is knowingly peddling access, “but letting sitting presidents raise money for their future libraries—and secretly—is a recipe for this sort of sleaze.”
Payne wasn’t just talking about getting someone an audience with top officials in this video, said Ed Morrissey in a Hot Air blog. He seemed to be suggesting he could get the administration to take sides in “Kyrgyzstan’s internal politics.” Promising access in exchange for big library donations might not be illegal, but “conducting a private foreign policy for profit” certainly is.