WASHINGTON – The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has launched a probe into allegations that a lobbyist with close ties to the White House solicited funds from foreign interests for the George W. Bush Presidential Library in return for access to senior U.S. foreign policy officials.
Stephen Payne, who claims to have raised more than $1 million for the Republican Party in recent years, said he would arrange meetings with senior administration officials in return for a payment of “several hundred thousand dollars” toward the Texas library, according to The Sunday Times of London.
On Monday, Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman wrote Payne to ask him whether he had been authorized to solicit funds for the library, whom he solicited, the amounts he received and whether he arranged meetings with top officials to get the funding.
"According to the Times of London, you solicited funds for President Bush’s library from foreign interests. Specifically, you reportedly offered access to several senior U.S. government officials, including Vice President Cheney, in return for six-figure contributions to the library," Waxman, D-Calif., wrote.
"If true, this report raises serious concerns about the ways in which foreign interests might be secretly influencing our government through large donations to the library," he wrote.
Waxman said few restrictions exist under current law about raising money for presidential libraries. Individuals can contribute as much as they want and are not required to disclose their donation.
"To that end, a presidential library can solicit secret donations from companies and foreign interests that seek to secretly influence governmental affairs," he wrote, noting that the House of Representatives passed legislation last year requiring disclosure of information about donors to presidential libraries.
The Times of London reported it conducted an undercover investigation in which Payne was asked to arrange meetings in Washington for an exiled former central Asian president. He outlined the cost of facilitating such access.
“The exact budget I will come up with, but it will be somewhere between $600,000 and $750,000, with about a third of it going directly to the Bush library," Payne reportedly said.
Payne, President of Worldwide Strategic Partners and a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, is shown on video telling the undercover Sunday Times reporters that the "family" of an Asian politician should make the donation. Later, Payne added that if all the money was paid to him he would make the payment to the Bush library.
Publicly, it would appear to have been made in the politician’s name "unless he wants to be anonymous for some reason."
Asked by the undercover reporter who the politician would be able to meet for a payment of $250,000, Payne said: "Cheney’s possible, definitely the national security adviser [Stephen Hadley], definitely either Dr. Rice or . . . I think a meeting with Dr. Rice or the deputy secretary [John Negroponte] is possible."
FOX News' Chad Pergram contributed to this report.