World

How to build yourself a stealth lobbyist, Azerbaijani style

The rise of Brenda Shaffer as a scholar and oft-quoted expert in the field of energy politics illustrates just how vulnerable the American foreign policy establishment is to manipulation by foreign agents, accoridng to a report published by the Organizaed Crime and Corruption Reportng Center (OCCRP).

Till Bruckner, Advocacy Manager for Transparify, which promotes greater integrity in policy research, reveals that “supported by an overseas regime and an assorted network of overt and undercover lobbyists, she used oil money to build her academic credentials, then in turn used those credentials to promote Azerbaijan’s agendas through Congressional testimony, dozens of newspaper op-eds and media appearances, countless think tank events, and even scholarly publications.”

Shaffer first walked into Congress in 2001 to testify before the House of Representatives’ Committee on International Relations.

She was introduced as “the director of the Caspian Studies Program and a post-doctoral fellow in the international security program at the Belfort [Belfer] Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government”.

Addressing lawmakers, she asked them to repeal a section of the Freedom Support Act that barred direct US aid to the Azerbaijani government. “They have extended their hand to the US. They have huge expectations that the policy of this country is based on some sort of morality and high ideals,” she told them, and reinforced this in written testimony she also submitted.

Challenged about Azerbaijan’s democratic record, she replied: “There is a lot of room for improvement in terms of democratization. However, every six months, every year, things are getting better and better.”

“What lawmakers listening to Shaffer didn’t know was that the Caspian Studies Program she headed at Harvard was set up in 1999 through a $1 million grant from the US Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce and a consortium of oil and gas companies led by Exxon, Mobil, and Chevron, all of which had commercial interests in the region. The chamber of commerce is a pro-Azerbaijan pressure group whose Board of Directors includes a vice president of SOCAR, the Azerbaijan state-owned energy company, and top lobbyists for BP and Chevron,”
Till Bruckner writes.

Shaffer led the Caspian Studies Program until 2005. During her tenure, she wrote 14 op-eds for leading US and Israeli newspapers including the International Herald Tribune and the Jerusalem Post. Most called on American policy makers to pay more attention to the region. One exhorted the US to stop funding for Nagorno-Karabakh.

 

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