"Their Men in Washington" - Ken Silverstein - Harper's
". . .People should, of course, read the Kurtz column, read my piece, and come to their own conclusions, and as I have said before, those uncomfortable with my tactics are free to dismiss the story’s findings. Despite Kurtz’s concerns, most readers seem to understand why I went undercover. . ."
". . .Both lobbying firms have complained that my tactics were “unethical.” Now APCO has issued a press release acknowledging that it met with the Maldon Group–the name of my fictitious energy firm–but saying that it was never actually interested in winning the contract to work for Turkmenistan. “If Silverstein had bothered to have even a second meeting or to further engage, he could have found out that he would not make the cut to become one of our clients,” the press release says. . ."
". . .For now, though, let me share one story because the events in question took place long ago, and the source was not willing to provide the name of the lobbying firm involved, making it all but impossible to track down. He did, however, offer enough details that I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of his account. And the story, I think, gives some valuable insight into how lobby shops actually work. . ."
". . .The response—in the form of blog posts, emails, and interview requests—was overwhelming, and almost entirely positive. A lot of people, it seems, just don’t approve of lobby shops that do image-enhancement work for dictators. But for some in the media—and especially beltway reporters—my piece prompted a moral crisis. They just couldn’t figure out whether it was worse for me to trick the lobbyists than for the lobbyists to have proposed a whitewash campaign for the Turkmen regime. . ."
"Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post has faithfully parroted the talking points of the two lobbying firms I embarrassed in this month’s Harper’s, but APCO and Cassidy & Associates have had less luck with other journalists. The story exposed how the firms offered to polish the image of Stalinist Turkmenistan when I approached them, claiming to represent a shady energy firm that allegedly had a stake in that country’s natural gas sector. . ."
A powerful article in Harper’s about lobbying in Washington reignites a long-standing debate over the ethics of undercover journalism.
"Kenneth Case and Ricardo, a fellow consultant for The Maldon Group, sat at a brightly polished conference table for 20, a pitcher of water zested with lemon nearby, and waited for the pitch. Among the bipartisan suits doing the selling were a former aide to Rep. Roy Blunt, the second-ranking Republican in the U.S. House, and Chuck Dolan, a top public relations consultant for the 2004 Kerry-Edwards campaign. There were specialists with serious domestic and political connections and experts in dealing with the nation's top news organizations. Case had come to Cassidy & Associates with a problem. It seems The Maldon Group had considerable interests in Turkmenistan, on the northern borders of Iran and Afghanistan, a country with the fifth-largest reserve of natural gas in the world and a wealth of oil. Investors, however, were having nothing to do with this backward former Soviet republic because, until his death in December 2006, the country had been under the heel of Stalinist despot Saparmurat Niyazov. That Niyazov had been succeeded by his personal dentist, Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, did not exactly kindle confidence. Was it possible, given this climate, that Cassidy & Associates could make the U.S. government see that Berdymukhamedov had reforms planned for Turkmenistan, that things were looking up? Case asked."