Bush lobbyist denies access peddling

July 15, 2008 at 5:44 PM
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HOUSTON, July 15 (UPI) -- A U.S. House panel has begun an investigation into whether a Houston businessman violated federal law by hinting he could arrange White House access.

The congressional investigation came a day after Stephen Payne was involved in a sting operation by The Sunday Times of London, which used a hidden camera to film Payne discussing Bush library contributions when meeting a Central Asian politician and a Times reporter posing as an associate, The Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday.

Payne, a GOP activist who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for President George Bush, told the Chronicle he was only trying to sign the politician as a client.

"I was not there to raise money for the library, I have no interest in the library. I was there to get a client," Payne said.

White House press secretary Dana Perino said, "There's categorically no link between any official business and the Bush library" planned for Dallas.

Payne said the London reporter asked leading questions, and accused the British newspaper of editing out sections of the meeting that would have cleared him.

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