Before last week, we'd never heard of Worldwide Strategic Partners and Stephen Payne, the (former) Homeland Security adviser who was caught on video soliciting big donations for the future George W. Bush Presidential Library fund while offering to arrange access to top White House officials.
But Randy Scheunemann, Sen. John McCain's top foreign policy adviser, has known him -- and been working with his business associates -- for years.
Worldwide Strategic Partners was one of Scheunemann's lobbying clients back in 2002, when Scheunemann worked for the lobbying firm Orion.
And more recently, Scheunemann was lobbying for a group called the Caspian Alliance. That group was one of Scheunemann's four registered lobbying clients in 2005 and 2006, and paid him a total of $40,000.
The Caspian Alliance was formed by Payne's business associate, Houston lawyer Brian Ettinger, to "specialize in pushing the interests and advising American oil groups active in the former Soviet republics that overlook the Caspian Sea (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan)," according to a 2006 report in the Paris-based Intelligence Online, which we found in the Nexis news database.
Ettinger has worked with Payne at Worldwide Strategic Partners along with other ventures and currently shares office space with Payne at the firm's Houston office.
And the Caspian Alliance uses the same Houston address as Payne's Worldwide Strategic Partners on lobbying forms filed with the Senate.
One lobbying form for the Caspian Alliance lists several people working on its behalf, including including Ettinger, Payne's former business partner Gary Polland and Ari Storch with Artemis Strategies.
Payne is among the founders of Atremis Strategies, a lobbying firm which has had a partnership with the Caspian Alliance. Artemis Strategies was founded in 2003 by Payne, Ettinger and others including Timothy F. Powers, formerly deputy director of the Republican National Committee's congressional affairs and strategic planning operation and member of the Bush-Cheney transition team, according to a March 13, 2003 report in the Washington Post.
Payne was recently caught bragging about his close ties with Scheunemann, according to the Times of London. The British newspaper took an undercover video of Payne talking to a Kazakh politician about a potential deal. On the tape, Payne said Scheunemann has been "working with me on my payroll for five of the last eight years," according to a report in the Times.
The Times described the Caspian Alliance as a "subsidiary" of Worldwide Strategic Energy, of which Payne is also president. TPMmuckraker found that many of the same people are involved with both the Caspian Alliance and Worldwide Strategic Partners, but could not independently verify the nature of the relationship between the two firms.
A reporter for the blog Majikthise apparently obtained a 44-page document from Worldwide Strategic Energies that featured Scheunemann prominently, including the above photo. The reporter, Lindsay Beyerstein, said the document was a prospectus distributed to potential investors and listed Schuenemann among the firm's executive team, along with Major General Lincoln Jones III, a former executive at Enron.
The Times also said it obtained a similar document.
Neither the McCain campaign nor Worldwide Strategic Partners responded to requests for comment today.
Late Update: The McCain campaign responded late Monday.