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Sierra Club Stands By Odd Kazakhstan Blog Post

Successful Kazakh PR work?

Posted on June 17, 2013, at 12:48 p.m. ET

Shamil Zhumatov / Reuters

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

WASHINGTON — The Sierra Club didn't publish a strangely pro-Kazakh regime blog post at the behest of Kazakhstan, a spokeswoman said on Monday.

"There is no financial relationship between Sierra Club and Kazakhstan," said press secretary Maggie Kao.

Asked how the post came about, Kao said, "I believe one of our interns saw this article on renewable energy in Kazakhstan and wrote a blog post" and linked to an article on a website called Sustainable Business that describes Kazakhstan in similarly florid terms to the Sierra Club's post, which was written by an intern and titled "Kazakhstan: From Coal to Clean Energy?" The Sierra Club post, which was republished at the Daily Kos, presents a glowing picture of Kazakhstan's energy industry, which is about to undergo a "seismic shift" thanks to the efforts of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. The Kazakh leader has been in power since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and his government has been accused of numerous human rights abuses.

"Given that Kazakhstan has a plethora of opportunities to develop fossil fuel resources, their message that green solutions offer better environmental, social, and economic outcomes is that much more powerful," the story concludes.

The editor of Sustainable Business didn't immediately respond to a query about the original post that inspired the Sierra Club intern.

Kazakhstan has been known to pay think tanks for research that goes into positive reports, and maintains a lobbying presence in Washington, having spent $560,000 on the services of the BGR Group in 2012, according to filings. In 2007, Kazakhstan hired APCO Worldwide, the same global lobbying firm that helped with the Malaysian government's campaign to put undisclosed propaganda in American media outlets.