How Washington Lobbyists Fought to Flack for a Stalinist Dictatorship
“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.”
“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.
- Random House Publishing Group, September 2008
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