Pointing out the amorality of lobbyists is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel. But that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. Harper’s Ken Silverstein decided to see what would happen if he posed as a representative of Turkmenistan and approached prominent D.C. lobbyists to see if they’d represent his country. Of course, Turkmenistan is not your typical ex-Soviet republic:
Until his sudden death last December, President-for-Life Saparmurat Niyazov built a personality cult that outdid that of any modern leader except possibly Kim Jong Il. High school students were required to study The Ruhnama, Niyazov’s book of personal and spiritual wisdom, described on its official website as being “on par with the Bible and the Koran.” The self-declared “Turkmenbashi,” or “Leader of all Ethnic Turkmens,” Niyazov had his image plastered on billboards and buildings across the country, as well as on the national currency, salt packets, and vodka bottles. He named after himself not only a town but an entire month of the year (the one we unenlightened non-Turkmen still call January). Any opposition to the Turkmen government is considered to be treason, and thousands of political dissidents have been imprisoned. In 2004 a man seeking permission to hold a peaceful demonstration was sent to a psychiatric hospital for two years. Following Niyazov’s demise, Minister of Health Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, the Turkmenbashi’s personal dentist, became acting president.
Turkmenistan also has the world’s fifth-largest natural gas reserve. Over at the Washington Post, Howard Kurtz did a great recap of the faux-Turkmenistan guerilla journalism. It turns out that a lot of lobbyists will arrange for positive op-eds from friendly think tank experts. Who knew?