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.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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