Ken Silverstein

Their men in Washington: Undercover with D.C.'s lobbyists for hire

wash.jpgOne of the rewards in our Kickstarter campaign is the book 'Washington on $10 Million a Day' by Ken Silverstein, who is one of the participants in BIG BOYS GONE BANANAS!*. (Pledge $50 to Fredrik's cause, and the book will be yours.)

For Harper's Magazine, Ken wrote the article 'Their men in Washington' which we're reprinting here with his permission.

In March, when the U.S. State Department announced its new global survey of human rights, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared that the report demonstrated America’s commitment to civil liberties, the rule of law, and a free press. “We are recommitting ourselves to stand with those courageous men and women who struggle for their freedom and their rights,” she said. “And we are recommitting ourselves to call every government to account that still treats the basic rights of its citizens as options rather than, in President Bush’s words, the non-negotiable demands of human dignity.”

Flipping through the report, however, one cannot help but notice how many of the countries that flout “the non-negotiable demands of human dignity” seem to have negotiated themselves significant support from the U.S. government, whether military assistance (Egypt, Colombia), development aid (Azerbaijan, Nigeria), expanded trade opportunities (Angola, Cameroon), or official Washington visits for their leaders (Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan). The granting of favorable concessions to dictatorial regimes is a practice hardly limited to the current administration: Bill Clinton came into office having said that China’s access to American markets should be tied to improved human rights—specifically its willingness to “recognize the legitimacy of those kids that were carrying the Statue of Liberty” at Tiananmen Square—but left having helped Beijing attain its long-cherished goal of Permanent Most Favored Nation trade status. Jimmy Carter put the promotion of human rights at the heart of his foreign policy, yet he cut deals for South American generals and Persian Gulf monarchs in much the same fashion as his successor, Ronald Reagan.


Ken Silverstein is an Open Society Foundation fellow, conducting research on corruption in the global energy business. Until 2010 he was the Washington Editor for Harper's Magazine and writes Washington Babylon for Harper's online.

Donate on behalf of Ken Silverstein: