How the National Prayer Breakfast offers foreign lobbyists a chance to "pay to play" - 2018-07-18
The New York Times broke a story last week about the degree to which the National Prayer Breakfast has become a "pay to play" event. At the gathering, foreign dignitaries and lobbyists pay thousands of dollars for access to the event itself and — perhaps more importantly — the week of meetings and events surrounding the breakfast. According to the Times' Kenneth P. Vogel and Elizabeth Dias, "the annual event has become an international influence-peddling bazaar, where foreign dignitaries, religious leaders, diplomats and lobbyists jockey for access to the highest reaches of American power."
For example, they report, ambassador-turned-lobbyist Herman J. Cohen offered tickets to Chad's President Idriss Déby, billing the event as "a special occasion to get to know and converse directly with the President of the U.S." The price? $220,000.
Among the most prominent recent guests at the event was Maria Butina, a Russian graduate student at American University and gun rights activist, who was more recently accused of "acting as an agent for a foreign government."