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July 15th, 2008
08:00 AM ET

Caught on tape: White House access for cash?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/14/art.bushspeech.jpg]
Ed Henry
CNN White House Correspondent

Sex is not involved so let's call it Money, Lies and Videotape.

It's a shocking tape that comes from a sting operation by the Times of London newspaper. It shows a Texas lobbyist and Bush fundraiser, Stephen Payne, trying to wrangle a big donation for the George W. Bush Presidential Library from a man whom he thought was representing the exiled former president of a Central Asian country who wanted some White House access.

"A couple hundred thousand (dollars)," says Payne. "I think that would probably get the attention of people."

Payne is clearly heard telling the guy that in exchange for the dough to help build the library in Dallas, he can set up meetings with top Administration officials, including the Vice President and Secretary of State.

"Cheney's possible, definitely the national security adviser, definitely Dr. Rice," says Payne.

White House officials insist they knew nothing about the arrangement. Ditto for the Vice President's office and the State Department.

Payne, meanwhile, insists it's all a big misunderstanding. He told CNN that he mentioned the possibility of donations to the library, but he made it very clear "there could be no quid pro quo."

Of course, there's that little matter of the tape.

So...did Payne have some ties to the President? Did he deliver on any meetings for his supposed clients?

The Administration right now isn't offering up the White House visitor logs that would show when and if Payne dropped in. It's checking with the lawyers.

Editor's note: See Ed Henry's full report tonight on AC360° tonight at 10PM.

soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. Mike in Seattle

    "...did Payne have some ties to the president?"
    Are you KIDDING me? Don't you CNN White House Correspondents have access to the internet??? Try doing some actual reporting fellas, your NON-engagement of this administration and failure to show the REAL positions and lack of knowledge of John McCain have become truly surreal. Remember all the hand-wringing apologies we heard from you fellas about your behavior (collusion) in the run-up to the Iraq War? Um, you're doing it again...

    July 16, 2008 at 9:18 am |
  2. Reggie Hammond

    Why isn't this front page news?

    July 16, 2008 at 9:18 am |
  3. Ayan

    misunderstanding right? And we are suppose to believe that?!?

    This administration has done every possible wrong thing they could have done, after going to a unaproved war, torturing prisnors, got the country in debt, etc. he actually got the nerve to bribe his way to a library in his name.. ARE YOU SERIOUS???

    The only thing Bush has done for the past 8 years is used the white house, america and the american people as his own little playground like a child. Someone needs to stop him, it's about time someone stops him before the little left isn't destroyed.

    July 16, 2008 at 7:11 am |
  4. Daniel

    The president is a liar and a cheat. He has squandered the credibility of the United States to elevate his own ego. A LIBRARY? You must be joking. The man cannot speak English, let alone read it. I think Bush's life after Jan '09 will be quite sad. He will never be able to appear in a public venue like a restaurant or sports stadium for the rest of his life. He risks the probability of getting booed in public, which will definitely happen at the next inauguration. He should be tried for war crimes. He's a dangerous man without a conscience.

    July 16, 2008 at 2:43 am |
  5. Linda

    Obama is our best hope. We have some serious damage control that must be done to restore our economy, our credibility around the world and our own self esteem as Americans. John McCain is not the answer. As far back as April 23, 2003, John McCain was touting his agreement with Bush's policies and declaring his admiration for Bush's courage in going to war in Iraq. He even said he admired Bush for refusing to back down. As late as March 2008, McCain was still defending his support for Bush's economic and foreign policy. McCain will owe the crooks and cronies from the Bush Administration big time if he is elected. We must put an end to the disgrace of this corruption and greed. It is up to us to take back our Country. Obama will be a much better and smarter steward of our economy and foreign policy. Most of us know this in our hearts and heads. Let's throw the crooks out and let's "all rise together"!

    July 16, 2008 at 1:30 am |
  6. Andre

    Why wasn't Bush and his administartion impeached a long time ago. Bush, Cheny, Rumsfeld, Libby, the whole likes of them, should all be held accountable for their misuse of power these last 8 years. All their asses should be hauled before a court, judge and jury- they are not above the law as they would like to think.

    July 16, 2008 at 12:42 am |
  7. stephen

    Why would Bush need a library? Only people that read need libraries. He is an idiot.

    July 15, 2008 at 11:23 pm |
  8. Etta J

    Vote MCCain and vote to Continue the Bush administration's lies,and the downfall of America.Areyou blind, MCCain is Bush's pen pal! Get real he has No presidental experience, gimme a break! Vote Obama to save America!

    July 15, 2008 at 10:10 pm |
  9. Art

    The Bush Administration is the most corrupt in my lifetime. Unbelievable.

    July 15, 2008 at 9:33 pm |
  10. Alex

    First and foremost, this President has not "earned" the right to have a library built in his name. So why is this lobbyist trying to raise money for such an effort? The only good thing Mr. Bush has done is to give many of us a tax break, but he then turned around and ran our country into a debt that I doubt can be paid off by my great grandchildren. But we really should not be surprised by this lobbyist's conduct. Only the wealthy and connected in our country continue to get ahead and that at the expense of the rest of us. Most politicians today are a disgusting and woefully inept group who breed contempt for the people of our nation.

    July 15, 2008 at 9:05 pm |
  11. GAIL Centre,Al;

    Nothing surprises me about the Bush administration, they don't know what the truth is.Bush,Cheney, and the whole bunch need to be in prison. They have sold us out on everything. what happened to the law. doesn't anybody care. The country is crumbling around us, thank GOD this administration will soon be over. WE NEED EXPERICENCE, SO MY VOTE WILL BE FOR MCCAIN.NOT HUSSIEN.

    July 15, 2008 at 8:35 pm |
  12. B.F in Naples

    I certainly would give anything to have the White House visitor log made public, certainly would fill in a lot of pieces of a puzzle for me .

    July 15, 2008 at 7:43 pm |
  13. Ken

    I knew the President was a powerful man but my God this President commited like 30 felonies, leaked CIA agents ID and now bribery is caught on tape and is downplayed to a mear attack on the lobbyist doing his job, I used to want to be a teacher, or a Doctor but these are the people with the real ability to change things for the good or bad, I know what I want to be when I grow up, not the President but his henchman. They're the ones who break the laws and get away with it. 19 year old, male

    July 15, 2008 at 6:46 pm |
  14. G.W. Bushie

    I find all these comments distrubing. How do all you folks think a Presidential library gets done?

    July 15, 2008 at 6:46 pm |
  15. Dan

    If it comes out of this President's mouth, you can take it to the bank that the opposite is closer to the truth than what your ears are hearing. Let's see, I'm not a Washington insider, I will not engage in nation building, I will limit CO2, we do not torture, we believe in a strong dollar, conservation is not a viable alternative..and on and on. I wish we would not taint Dallas with this president's library, what a disgrace.

    July 15, 2008 at 5:44 pm |
  16. Torrance, CA

    Since the Taxpayers pay for the upkeep, taxes as well as the mortgage is the Bush Administration trying to make some extra cash to fund the Error on Terror Campaign (i.e. the War in Iraq) they allowed over 3,000 attendants of the World Trade Center Towers die invane over or do they plan to pay down the $3 trillon dollar debt with the proceeds *YEAH RIGHT* or for the last 7+ years, while they've advertised North Korea, Iraq and Iran as the 'Axis of Evil', they've been selling the access to the White House for their own profit.

    Senator Kuccinich we applaud you for both your Articles of Impeachment (Bush & Cheney), but this country has definately lost it's moral and ethical character if we have representatives in either the House or Senate or White House that sell what 'AIN'T THERE's' to sell

    July 15, 2008 at 5:37 pm |
  17. Rose from Southern Calif

    Surprise, surprise, surprise not another corruption in the Bush adminstration, just add this one up with the others I personally have lost count.

    July 15, 2008 at 5:11 pm |
  18. Alex_58

    Yes, and I'm sure past presidents (Clinton, Bush Sr., etc.) NEVER did anything like this...

    July 15, 2008 at 5:09 pm |
  19. Rose from Southern Calif

    Suprise, suprise, suprise not another corruption in the Bush adminstration. Just add this one up with the others I personally have lost count.

    July 15, 2008 at 5:07 pm |
  20. J. Richter

    This White House pardoned Libby the law breaker that was convicted of the same crime he committed on behalf of the white house.

    Where are the morals.

    The worst part is that our country ahs been devalued after 8 years to the extent that the dollar is nearly half of its value compared to the Euro when Bush took office and is anow less than the Canadian (who though this day would come?) Now Europe and China are swooping in to buy us up. Look at poor Budweiser.

    July 15, 2008 at 5:02 pm |
  21. Kevin in Dallas

    I would be suprised if anyone above Payne knew about what he was promising. What does Bush care if he has a Presidential Library? The man can't read. I think he'd be down with a Presidential Cinema though.

    July 15, 2008 at 4:48 pm |
  22. BruthaMANMD

    The Republican way, corruption and GREED, this is all the Republican partie has stood up for and the only thing they offer America. Has anyone notice in the past, say 8years, Bush and Cheney have always been on the "wrong" side of every issue?

    July 15, 2008 at 4:32 pm |
  23. Adena Wheeles

    Crime after crime, CIA agents outed by White House executives, the Geneva Convention walked all over, Enron, corruption run a-muck ,that's what happens when checks and balances are removed from our government. Regulation is a have too, as is a need for the people to control our air waves. There is plenty of evidence to hang this administration and it's cohorts but first we need to get our country out of this hell created by Bush and Company !

    July 15, 2008 at 3:13 pm |
  24. sean

    Seems most people can see through the current administrations hype,and criminal activities. I would like people to start talking about the book by Vincent Bugliosi called "The case against Bush" where he surmises there is a legal precedent for the trial of Murder against Mr. Bush. I had always found it fascinating that Americans would try to castrate Bill Clinton for getting his cigar smoked, but will ignore the person that sent their children off to die in a war that was brought about based upon convenient misrepresentations. Ronald Reagan did not have experience, Arnold did not have experience, so what is all this non-sense talk about Obama's lack of experience. Take back the great America from special interest, and corporate greed; for all our sakes.

    Sean

    July 15, 2008 at 1:58 pm |
  25. JC- Los Angeles

    This is representative of the moral compass that has become all too commonplace under the Bush regime.

    The Bush Library's ediface should resemble one big oil drum; its slogan could be "from little minds came big oil."

    The library could have statues of Bush, Cheney and Rice clad in cowboy hats with "mission accomplished" emblazoned upon the brim.

    Throw in framed portraits of Greenspan, Rummey, Brownie, Angelo Mozilo, Charles Price, Stan O'Neil, James Cayne, Bernie Ebbers, Ken Lay, John Rigas, Duke Cunningham, Tom Delay and Gary Condit and you have the makings of quite an institution.

    July 15, 2008 at 1:44 pm |
  26. Sharon from Indy

    Ed:
    It is disturbing that this administration is still trying to build some kind of legacy for President Bush. A presidential library will not change the legacy of mismanagement of power, money and political favors.

    If Mr. Payne is indeed soliciting money for President Bush or his library, high ranking officials should not be the barter for the donation. Maybe it is the way things are done in the White House, maybe not. Either way, it is distasteful and unethical

    And one wonders why Americans don't trust politicians.

    July 15, 2008 at 12:30 pm |
  27. Annie Kate

    As corrupt as the Bush administration has been over the last 8 years is anyone even surprised at this? I'm not.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    July 15, 2008 at 12:14 pm |
  28. Saad, Ramsey, NJ

    WOW!!! Thanks Ed. One more piece of art relating to Bush administration. It gets funnier by the day.

    But on a serious note, the question is how much money will go in Stephen's pocket and how much towards Bush library. If even a single dime ends up in his pocket, the idiot should be put in jail. Now it's an entire different story if 100% goes towards the library. In that case, I will send him and his wife a gift certificate to the best Steakhouse in Dallas. At least he is making some use of the sorry existence of Dick Cheney. If some time with him will contribute towards building a library, that's great. Library is always a good thing for the society. And especially the Bush Library.... I don't think there has ever been built a Library with more funnier content than this one will be...... LOL.

    July 15, 2008 at 11:49 am |
  29. Kristen- Philadelphia, PA

    Checking with Lawyers is never a good sign, something fishy going on as usual with this administration.

    July 15, 2008 at 11:22 am |
  30. Heather

    Im not surprised at all.The Clintons had Tea Partys and sold the Licoln Bedroom to the highest cash prize. The Bush Adm is selling time with its VIPs. Of course the log is private. What else is new. Same old political bs. Love your writing. Always the best!

    July 15, 2008 at 10:31 am |
  31. Somewhere in the MW

    A misunderstanding. Really? Is Mr Payne trying to tell me I didn't see or hear what I saw and heard on the video? That spin may work for some, but not I.

    This administration will never release the visitor's log. They'll claim, as they have so many times in the past, to not be able to discuss it because of an "ongoing investigation". Nothing new for this administration.

    In my opinion, it doesn't matter if they release the visitor logs or not. As far as I'm concerned, the video, and what is seen and heard on it, speaks for itself.

    Aren't there laws against prostitution? Oh yea, that's only if you're selling sex, not our political system.

    July 15, 2008 at 9:58 am |