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Turkmeniscam: How Washington Lobbyists Fought to Flack for a Stalinist Dictatorship [Kindle Edition]

Ken Silverstein
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $13.99
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

“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

From Booklist

Foreign despots with image problems typically hire D.C. spin doctors, so Harper’s editor Silverstein resolved to sting the shills to reveal how they put happy faces on tyrants. This humorous account of his subterfuge begins with Silverstein’s strategy: he would pose as a fictional broker of the energy resources of Turkmenistan, a country that, alas, labors beneath a reputation for human rights abuses, corruption, rigged elections, and cult-of-personality dictatorship. Understanding Turkmenistan’s need for a professional public relations whitewash, Kenneth Case of the Maldon Group shopped the problem to top-drawer lobbying firms, two of which scheduled presentations to snag the Turkmenistan account. Gussying up Turkmenistan would be a challenge, they advised Mr. Case—hence their steep monthly fee—but their firm’s stable of ex-members of Congress and ex-ambassadors, with their connections to the political class, promised to get the truth out about prosperous, democratic Turkmenistan. Evidence in hand of the lobbyists’ greed and political prostitution, Kenneth Case reverted to Ken Silverstein, author of this marvelous, rollicking exposé of K Street culture. --Gilbert Taylor

About 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.

Product Details

  • File Size: 326 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (September 23, 2008)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001GJ2QDS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,497,098 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-written, informative, and depressing January 8, 2009
Format:Hardcover
This book is based largely on what the author reported in Harper's, concerning his attempts to procure lobbyist/p.r. representation for the Stalinist government in Turkmenistan (through an obscure investment group). It will come as a surprise to absolutely no one remotely familiar with Washington that ANY individual, business, government, etc., no matter how egregious their conduct, could find lobbyists to represent them in Washington for the right price. What is unique, informative, and entertaining about the book is the author's use of undercover journalism to expose just how far lobbyists would stoop to represent an oppressive dictatorship, with all the relevant details. Indeed, firms literally were fighting to representing Turkemnistan.

The book is well-written, and at around 200 pages, is a quick read. The book, besides being informative about the world of lobbyists, is also an indictment of journalism. The author rightly discussed the death of undercover/investigative journalism in the mainstream, national print newsmedia. He also discussed the incestuous relationships between politicians, the media, and lobbyists/p.r. types. If you're interested in politics, lobbying, or journalism, this book is for you.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Politics is an unsavory sport February 9, 2009
By Chris
Format:Hardcover
This is the best book on current events that I've read in a long time.

There are people in this country who want to believe that there are serious and major differences in principle between our two political parties. Well this book shows that both our parties do share a big principle and that is "money talks." John Murtha is a big example on the Democratic side. He is the champion earmarker of the House, loyally rewarding campaign donations with gifts of taxpayer money to the donator.

Moreover, political lobbying is a revolving door business. There is the case of the aide on Republican Bill Thomas's House Ways and Means Committee who helped shepherd through Bush's dramatic tax cuts on US corporations' overseas investments in 2004. This aide then went to work for a lobbying firm that represents many of the clients that benefited from that tax cut. Silverstein observes that the usual right wing dogma promised that such tax cuts would stimulate companies to expand production and hire new people. Silverstein notes that Business Week in August 2005 reported that six of the ten biggest beneficiaries of the tax cuts had engaged in substantial layoffs of workforce.

Then there are lobbyists who work for foreign dictatorships. One example is the lobbying firm of Patton/Boggs, the "Boggs" name designating Tommy Boggs, brother of Cokie Roberts. Tommy Boggs helped spearhead the effort of the death squad government in Guatemala to remove restrictions on US military aid to the country in the early 90's. More recently Patton-Boggs has done PR work for the dictator of Cameroon, Paul Biya. One of the most extreme examples that Silverstein cites of a lobbyist for a foreign government is Jack Abramoff.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amusing and informative January 2, 2009
Format:Hardcover
This is a good and quick read, an expose of the casual way in which foreign governments can buy influence in Washington DC, and correspondingly the extent to which what passes for policy debate in DC is bought and paid for. However, the book does not substantially add to the material that the author already published in Harpers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lobbying is a business May 16, 2011
By Charlie
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I found the behind the scenes view of lobbying to be intriguing - the story was told very well and I was amazed at the lack of information lobbying corporations needed to move forward. However, I wish the author had at least recognized the fact that lobbying is a business - they get paid to tell and market a story - just like advertisers - in government. Hopefully another story can be done on domestic lobbying, especially in these fiscally austere times.
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