It looks like George W. Bush has known Stephen Payne pretty well for a long time.
The White House today tried to distance Bush from a former lobbyist who was caught on tape by the Times of London offering to arrange meetings with high-level U.S. officials in exchange for large payments to the future Bush presidential library fund.
But the president and the Houston-based consultant have known each other for at least 20 years.
Payne was George W. Bush’s personal travel aide during the senior Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign, according to an out-dated version of Payne’s firm’s Web site.
More recently, he’s been running a firm called Worldwide Strategic Partners (pdf), which bills itself as an “International Relations and Energy Development” consulting firm.
A photo of Payne with Afghan President Hamid Karzai is featured in one of his firm’s powerpoint slides.
Payne has helped Bush and Cheney when they visit the Middle East. He joined the president at the Red Sea Summit in Jordan in June 2003, serving as a “Senior Presidential Advance Representative,” according to his firm’s own description.
With the vice president, Payne has traveled to the Middle East in 2002 and 2005, to Korea in 2004, Kazakhstan in 2006, and Afghanistan for the inauguration of Afghan President Karzai.
Payne’s firm says he’s been a “governmental affairs consultant” representing Afghanistan, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Morgan Stanley, SAP Software, & Continental Airlines. He’s also worked for Yukos Oil, Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
Payne registered a few lobbying contracts back in 2001 and 2002 for companies including SAP America and United Space Alliance.
Payne also appears to have deep ties with the Texas GOP fundraising machine.
In 2000, Payne was listed among Bush’s “Pioneers,” the list of campaign bundlers who helped raise more than $100,000 for the president’s first bid for the White House.
As the 2004 campaign geared up, Payne was among some 350 bundlers invited to Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas for a barbecue, billed as a “donor maintenance event,” according to the Houston Chronicle at the time.
In the 1990s, Payne served as a fundraiser and staffer for Sen. Kay Baily Hutchison (R-TX). He served as “vice chair” of her two most recent campaigns.
Recently, he was appointed by Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff to serve on the Homeland Security Advisory Council, where he sits on the Secure Borders and Open Doors Advisory Committee.