President Saakashvili has strongly denied that his administration was in any kind of “lobbying relations” with Randy Scheunemann, a foreign policy advisor of the Republican presidential candidate, John McCain.
He was asked about the matter at the BBC’s HARDtalk, when President Saakashvili was speaking about the huge support Georgia had in the United States.
“We’ve been getting huge support from the U.S. administration,” he said and added that this support was coming not only from President Bush and his administration, but also from the both presidential candidates in the United States.
When saying this, an anchor, Stephen Sackur, interrupted Saakashvili and asked him: “Nobody would deny it for one second, that you have fantastic PR in Washington and many supporters, some say that partly because you spend millions of dollars on lobbying and PR in Washington not least with Mr. McCain’s chief foreign policy advisor [Randy Scheunemann], he has received lot of money in his strategy organization [Orion Strategies] from your government; so you do have PR friends, but when it comes to practicalities what have the Americans have actually done for you to stop the Russians doing what they want on your territory?”
“You’ve just sounded like Mr. Putin right now,” Saakashvili responded with smile on his face. “What millions of dollars? What lobbyist?.. We do not have millions of money to spend for anything especially for lobbying.”
President Saakashvili said that he knew Randy Scheunemann personally and the last time when he met with him was “around two years ago” when Senator McCain visited Georgia.
Saakashvili pointed out that Senator McCain was a huge supporter Georgia’s democratic reforms and “I am grateful” for that.
“We certainly don’t have any lobbying relations with John McCain and with people around him,” he continued. “I’ve known Randy before [his visit to Georgia with McCain], but I can certainly confirm, that we have no hidden or some kind of awkward relations with Randy or especially with Senator McCain.”
The Washington Post reported on August 13, that since 2004, Orion Strategies had collected USD 800,000 from the Georgian government.