Controversial host tied to authoritarian regime prompted David Plouffe to return speaking fee.
White House adviser David Plouffe is facing scrutiny amid reports that he took a $100,000 speaking fee from a firm with ties to the Iranian government, but that is not the first time a speech has put President Barack Obama's former campaign manager in hot water.
In 2009, weeks after Obama took the oath of office, Plouffe gave a speech in Baku, Azerbaijan to the Association for Development of Civil Society in Azerbaijan at Gerb University. Reports at the time claimed the organization was a mouthpiece for Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev — who leads the country's authoritarian government.
Plouffe donated his speaking fee to pro-Democracy groups amid a media firestorm, but not before dodging reporters on the ground.
Radio Free Europe reported that press were kept away from Plouffe, whose response to questions about human rights issues was this:
"I'm here as a private citizen, so all I'm doing is talking about elections, and the Internet and democracy, and to talk about our [U.S.] election, and how great it was that so many people participated in it, and that's a lesson I think people can learn."