[Revised on August 5, 2011]
Allegations that the government of Kazakhstan may have set up a slush fund to influence members of Congress are serious enough to warrant a federal investigation, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) said today in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
The influence-peddling claim originated in a lawsuit filed in federal court by a relative of Rahkat Aliyev, the ex-son-in-law of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Attorneys for the relative entered a letter into the court file purportedly written to Nazarbayev by the Kazakh ambassador to the U.S., in which the ambassador describes efforts to influence members of a congressional caucus created by the Embassy by financing them through a “special foreign currency account.”
The defendants in the case have strongly contested the letter as a forgery, including filing statements by Kazakh government officials and an analysis by a forensic document examiner. However, there is circumstantial evidence that gives considerable credence to some of the letter’s underlying claims.
POGO’s investigation has found campaign contributions from employees of firms hired by the Kazakhstan Embassy. Additionally, documents filed under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) and news reports show that the government of Kazakhstan has used lobbying firms to establish two separate congressional caucuses—“The Friends of Kazakhstan” and the “Central Asia Caucus”—dedicated to supporting its interests.
A recent New York Times report, which was initiated by documents provided by POGO, chronicled a bitter dispute between Aliyev and Nazabaryev. The article reported that Aliyev used his own lobbyists and was able to get five statements read into the Congressional Record that criticized the Kazakhstan government’s record on human rights.
“The dispute between President Nazarbayev and his ex-son-in-law lays bare a host of questionable activities on both sides,” POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian said. “Allegations that foreign money was used to influence U.S. policy shouldn’t be buried in a civil lawsuit.”
POGO’s letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, June 2, 2011