Tajikistan has one significant industrial asset, an aluminum smelter that dates back to the Soviet era. The state-owned plant, Talco, uses so much electricity it is responsible for regular, rolling blackouts around the country. Many Tajiks would like to know where Talco’s substantial profits go; the company keeps a tight lid on earnings information. But thanks to US disclosure laws, publicly available records show that a Washington lobbying firm has received a significant chunk of cash from the aluminum maker.
According to Justice Department filings, Talco pays the lobbying firm, Fabiani & Company, a $1.2-million annual retainer to “develop a favorable US-Tajikistan relationship” and “educate” American officials about Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon’s dream project: Rogun, the would-be tallest hydropower dam in the world. The contract, which began in October 2012, has led to dozens of meetings involving Fabiani representatives and US officials. Fabiani also has pushed story ideas that have evolved into puff pieces in US media.
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David Trilling is EurasiaNet's Central Asia editor.