Kazakhstan Pays for Academic Reports

Johns Hopkins institute says it had complete independence.

ByABC News
September 29, 2008, 8:28 AM

September 29, 2008— -- They talk about Kazakhstan's "new middle class" and the "success" of this oil-rich central Asian nation. But the three reports, issued this year by an institute at Johns Hopkins University, don't mention one key fact: who underwrote the cost.

The answer? The government of Kazakhstan.

The payments – brokered through the government's Washington lobbying firm, APCO Worldwide – were part of Kazakhstan's broader effort to bring attention and burnish its imagine inside the Beltway.

"They wanted greater attention to Kazakhstan and we said you could do that but you cannot have any control and they agreed," said Elizabeth Jones, a former ambassador to Kazakhstan now a lobbyist with APCO.

The funding of the reports by the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at Hopkins' School for Advanced and International Studies was disclosed as part of regularly required filings by the country's lobbying firm, APCO.

Foreign governments try to influence Washington's policymakers everyday. But some scholars says that the institute had an obligation to disclose its funding relationship, even if it had no impact on the outcome of the reports.

"The sources of funding should be clearly stated," said Paul Goble, a longtime American specialist of the region who teaches at the Institute of World Politics. "If they are not or if there is even the hint that someone is hiding something, there will be suspicions, justified or not, about whatever appears."

He added: "We in this country have an obligation to provide a best practices model for countries like Kazakhstan whose political and intellectual elites emerged from the Soviet system and do not fully understand the importance of transparency and thus may be tempted to use funds in ways that we would and should find problematic."

S. Frederick Starr, director of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at Johns Hopkins, said that that while he was aware of APCO's representation of the Kazakhstan government, the institute's relationship was only with the lobbying firm and not directly with the government.