Corrupt Politicians and Tools of the Gulen Movement

Corrupt Politicians and Tools of the Gulen Movement
Disclaimer: if some videos are disabled this is the work of the Gulen censorship which has filed fake copyright infringement complaints to UTUBE.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Gulen Islamic Cult Pours Money into Political Campaigns by Andrew Walden


For Mark Takai the campaign contributions are rolling in … from the secretive union-busting Turkish Gulen cult.
When Reps. Rida Cabanilla and Mark Takai, took a free 2013 trip to the South Caucasian Republic of Azerbaijan together, the $8,000 gift raised eyebrows even in the fetid swamps of the Hawaii legislature.
The Daily KOS called the trip “an oil industry-funded junket to Azerbaijan,” sponsored by the Houston-based “Turquoise Council” an  organization with deep oil-industry connections co-chaired by the sister of Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry.  The Turquoise Council is also one of dozens of US-based groups run by the Turkish Islamist Hizmet movement, controlled by secretive Imam Fethulla Gulen from his home-in-exile and headquarters in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania.
The Washington Post May 30, 2013 called it, “Time to Cash In“.
Politico described the trip as part of “a multimillion-dollar industry of recruiting current and former U.S. officials.”
The Washington Diplomat, June 26, 2013 explains, “Some state legislators may even one day end up in the halls of Congress.  So courting them is important to Azerbaijan.”
For Takai the campaign cash started rolling soon after he returned.  Now twelve of his top 150 contributors are Turkish including several executives of identified Gulen cult organizations.  The total payoff for Takai, $20,000 and counting.
Given the Gulen cult’s predilection for labor law violations at cult-connected charter schools, it is possible that these contributions may be considered illegal false-name contributions from the Gulen movement itself.  Cult members laboring for the Imam under “Tuzuk contracts” are obligated to kick back all of their salaries beyond a bare minimum needed to survive.
Gulen’s illegal labor contracts are described as “ugly unionbusting” by the Chicago Federation of Teachers.  A 2011 Gulen effort to take over Mokapu Elementry school on Kaneohe Marine Base was thwarted by HSTA members after they became aware of the organization’s anti-labor ties.
Rida T.R. Cabanilla, who represents District 41 in the Hawaii Legislature, left, and Mark Takai, who represents Hawaii’s District 33, present Azerbaijani Ambassador Elin Suleymanov with a box of Hawaiian Host chocolate-covered macadamia nuts during an Independence Day reception in Baku. Photo: Larry Luxner, Washington Diplomat

Civil Beat July 11, 2013 reports: “Cabanilla and Takai said they aren’t particularly concerned about accepting such an expensive trip because it doesn’t violate their own personal ethics or state standards. They both said that they measure the appropriateness of accepting such junkets by weighing how the underlying donation might influence them.
“There’s nothing in the Legislature now that would directly benefit Azerbaijan,” Takai said, “so it passes the ethics concern.”
But Takai is running for Congress.  And with thousands of Islamist foreign fighters flying to Ankara to cross the border and join ISIS, US-Turkish relations are front and center in efforts to avoid returning US ground troops to the region.
The Star-Advertiser August 30, 2014 says “(Takai) prefers a nonmilitary option….”
Stopping the influx of foreign fighters has got to be high on any list of non-military options.  But it appears the influence peddling doesn’t work both ways.  Takai declined comment when Hawai’i Free Press asked if he had spoken to any Turkish or Azeri contacts about infiltration of foreign ISIS fighters into Syria and Iraq.
Its not a casual question.  Even after a recent falling out with the Turkish government, the Gulen cult is believe to count amongst its members as many as 80% of Turkish police.

Azeri police detain an opposition supporter in Baku, October 12, 2013. David Mdzinarishvili / Reuters

Buzzfeed, June 3, 2014 points out that the Turquoise Council is a front group for Gulen, and asks, “Why has Baku teamed up with the Gulenist movement to win the hearts and minds of small-time US lawmakers?”  Wyoming state Rep. Dave Zwonitzer told Buzzfeed, “You don’t get a free 10-day trip sponsored by the oil company without somebody asking for something.”
Maui News columnist Ben Lowenthal February 28, 2014 explains:
“Mark Takai doesn’t seem to have a problem with taking sides. Last year he—along with other American legislators—signed off on a birthday note to the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev. Takai congratulated Aliyev in his efforts to reduce crime within the country and promoting allegiances abroad.
“Aliyev has been criticized by many diplomats and those that follow international relations as an autocrat. After taking office in 2003, he eliminated term limits for himself from the constitution. He’s been accused of running a corrupt government, clamping down on a free press, and rigged elections. The infamous Wikileaks website released a cache of diplomatic cables in 2012 that compare him to a mafia crime boss. Surely, Takai was aware of this before congratulating him on reducing crime in his country eight time zones away, right?
“Takai hasn’t talked about the birthday note recently, but perhaps his views on foreign policy will be examined soon. After all, he is among the seven candidates running for Congress in the First District. What exactly does Takai think about Azerbaijan?”
Civil Beat February 11, 2014 reports, “Reps. Rida Cabanilla and Mark Takai…co-sponsored …House Resolution 13 recogniz(ing) the 22nd anniversary of the Khojaly tragedy which, according to the resolution, involved the slaughter of hundreds of innocent civilians in Azerbaijan in February 1992 (and) House Resolution 9 call(ing) on the United States to strengthen its efforts to facilitate a political settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict.”
Campaigning for Congress, Takai didn’t make time for many committee meetings this session.  But while racking up an impressive number of absences elsewhere, he did show up to chair the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Military, and International Affairs, and Culture and the Arts where his resolutions were referred.
In February 12, 2014 testimony before the committee, progressive activist Dr. Dawn Morais Webster points out, the “rather strange resolution … will be used to strengthen a false representation of historical facts about the relationship between Azerbaijan and Armenia….  Since 1998 the United States has been rendering official assistance to Ngorno-Karabakh to help overcome the consequences of the devastating aggression by Azerbaijan….  (D)uring the Karabakh war, between 1993 and 1994, Azerbaijan used its connections with Islamic terrorist networks to hire thousands of Afghan mujahedeens and other Islamic mercenaries linked to various international terrorist organizations to fight against Armenia and Karabakh.”
In a move unusual for Hawaii’s chair-deferent legislators, both resolutions were rejected by members of Takai’s own committee.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Tom Horne Attorney General of Arizona exposed as a tool of Gulen Movement CONCEDES the election as Attorney General.

Over 3 years ago,when Tom formally the State Superintendant of Schools of Arizona.  Tom was in the pockets of the Gulen Movement Charter schools in Arizona (Sonoran Science Academies and Paragon Science Academy)
1) Over 3 years ago, Tom was featured on CNN news for shamelessly harassing American teachers with credentials for having "accents" some of these teachers had master's degrees and spoke 3 languages.  They are Americans but came from countries: Brazil, Ireland and Trinidad.  Tom openly attacked Mexican-American Studies, hates La Raza, etc.,  while overlooking the thick Turkish accents of h1-b visa uncredentialed teachers from Turkic countries. 
While at the same time attacking American teachers with accents, Tom Horne turned the other way on the THICK accents of the Turkish teachers (non American) of Sonoran Science Academy / Paragon Science Academy.  WHY?  We found that Tom Horne had 1) Taken campaign contributions from Mehmet Argin (now with the California operation of Magnolia Schools) and Mehmet's wife Turkan Argin.  As well as many other Gulen related employees of the charter schools like Fatih Karatas.  2) Horne claimed that SSA "delivered results"  (we wonder if he was talking about the money they delivered to him)
Over the past 3 years of Tom Horne in Arizona's politics he has been investigated by the FBI, cheated on his wife, embroiled with Mexican Americans,etc.,
Last week The Patriot Radio Show (Lisa Benson)along with Dr. Swier and Larry Gordon of Anti-Jihad watch exposed Tom Horne.
First Tom Horne appeared on Lisa's Radio show.  HERE IS THE RADIO Show:
Then an article in Dr. Swier's newsletter by Mr. Gordon
Yesterday, the usual restrained, moderate informative format of the Lisa Benson show ended in an uproar.  The kerfuffle was over the refusal of incumbent Arizona Attorney General Thomas Horne to recognize the stealth jihad agenda of the Gulen Movement here in the US.  Horne, a former Democrat is in the final days of a fractious Republican primary that ends Tuesday amidst accusations of alleged abuse of office encompassing campaign funding and resignation of former aides objecting to questionable practices. This has resulted in investigations by the FBI and his own department’s Solicitor General.
The New York Times  article, “Legal Woes Pose Hurdles for Attorney General Tom Horne of Arizona in Campaign” chronicled Horne’s problems in a mid- July 2014 article indicating that he had been abandoned by luminaries in the State Republican Party  over accusations of questionable practices.   His opponent in the primary battle, Mark Brnovich is making much of these accusations.  Horne’s presence came as a result of a call from his campaign office requesting time to defend his support of the Gulen science and math academies.  We had Nidra Poller back on the program to address the blood libel of the Al Dura affair. That concerned the 55 second video on France 2 TV news of the faked death of a 12 year Palestinian youth, Mohammed al Dura, on September 30, 2000 in Gaza.  That fostered a slogan used by  Osama bin Laden to justify the Al Qaeda  9/11 attack  that still appears in pro-Hamas protests across Europe and here in the US during the current Gaza war: ‘ Israel murders Palestinian children’.  Poller is the author of Al-Dura: the long range ballistic myth.
When the matter of Turkey came up in the discussion with Attorney General Horne, this writer discussed the background of how Sufi Sheikh Mohammed Fethulleh Gulen came to be a resident alien in a fortified compound in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. This followed his flight from prosecution by the then secular Turkish government in 1998. We also noted his 2008 US Department of Homeland Security immigration hearing and support from a number of leading figures in the Islamic and US political firmament.  Those endorsements came from the likes of former President Clinton and Professor John Esposito of Georgetown University Center for Muslim Christian Understanding endowed by Saudi billionaire Prince Talal. We also discussed the contretemps between Turkey’s newly elected President, former Premier Recep Erdogan and Sheikh Gulen over massive charges of corruption by the former. These two had been allies ousting the long term secular rule of Turkey’s military and political parties in the tradition of Kemal Ataturk, first President of the Turkish Republic.  Sheikh Gulen is said to control a fortune estimated at over $25 billion, including media outlets, such as Turkey’s leading news daily, Today’s Zaman.  Erdogan has been a supporter of Hamas, ISIS and al Qaeda Affiliates and engaged in gold for gas schemes with Iran stifling US and EU attempts  at sanctioning the Islamic republic ‘s nuclear development program.  He is often referred to as the rising Sultan of the new Turkish Caliphate. Not to be upstaged, Gulen has been characterized as the most dangerous Islamist in the world because of the GM’s Hizmat (service)  control  of nearly 80 percent of  enrollment in Turkey’s preparatory schools, as well as the global network of GM controlled academies.
Both Erdogan and Gulen are united in opposition to Israel, once an ally to Turkish secularists and now accused of “enslaving Palestinians in Gaza”.  Both were particularly incensed over the May 2010 assault on the Turkish vessel the Mavi Marmara during which Israeli naval commandos killed 8 Turks and one Turkish American that tried to pierce the Gaza blockade.  The Mavi Mamara is owned by a global radical Muslim charity based in Turkey, IHH that has supplied funds and weapons to both al Qaeda and ISIS in Syria.
Nidra and I drew attention to Turkey as a questionable member of NATO, whose request for entry to the EU had been rebuffed for years over charges of human rights abuses and denial of due process under the 11 year term of Erdogan and his party’s super majority in the Turkish Parliament.
But the main issue was the world wide network of 1,100 GM Schools in over 100 countries. In the US there are more than 135 GM charter schools with an enrollment exceeding 50,000 in more than 26 states; 12 of which are in Arizona. All funded by taxpayers in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually. We noted the private investigations that had been conducted in 12 states and the FBI raids on GM schools in Louisiana and Illinois over abuses of students and other allegations.   We discussed legislation passed in Tennessee and under consideration in Louisiana and Mississippi. See our June 2011 presentation, Unveiling Gulen Schools in Tennessee.  Those legislative proposals contain restrictions on the proportion of foreign workers brought in under the HB 1 visa program as administrators and faculty at charter schools specifically targeting the abuses by the GM operated science and mathematics academies.  We told how state legislators were often entreated by free trips to Turkey to sample the cuisine, culture and vibrant economy of the country.  GM US academy sponsoring groups have also made contributions to the political campaigns of state legislators in those jurisdictions that have granted charter licenses.
A caller drew attention to a report on a GM Sonoran academy in Tucson that Attorney General Horne had visited in his capacity as the former Superintendent of Public Instruction for Arizona, an elected post.  Lisa Benson cited pamphlets that she found extolling the virtues of the GM movement, Turkish nationalism and the Sheikh’s version of Islam. However, she also evidence of rejection of genocide. At that Attorney General Horne interjected saying that was concerning Armenian genocide and not the holocaust. Horne who is Jewish said that he came from a family of Shoah survivors and had relatives in Israel.   Horne is a graduate of both Harvard University and its Law School. Doubtless, he should have known that Hitler who fomented the murder of six million European Jewish men, women and children,  predicated the final solution of the Holocaust based on the West’s indifferent reactions to the plight of millions of Armenians lost in the Ottoman jihad death marches  during WWI.
 He justified his defense of the GM academies in Arizona by the academic performance of Gulen charter school students. Moreover, given the history of Jews during the holocaust, he indicated that it was unseemly to criticize another religion, in this case, Islam.  Notwithstanding, the presentation of information we provided on the GM academies in the US and the stealth jihad agenda of the GM doctrine propounded by Sheikh Gulen,  he saw nothing that would cause him to investigate their operations in Arizona.  This is notwithstanding the evidence of both state and FBI investigations in other jurisdictions.  Lisa Benson noted that he endorsed the Gulen even after she presented him with open source information that they supporter him when he was Superintendent of Public Instruction in Arizona.  Horne suggested to Benson that he wanted to focus on the charter schools run by La Raza rather than on Gulen. La Raza is an extremist Latino group were fostering rejectionist views of America replete with posters of Argentine Cuban icon, Che Guevara were the problem du jour for Horne.
Horne told Benson that, “I am not soft on Islam issues, but I don’t see anything wrong with Gulen.” Yet he would not admit that Islam could be so overt and obvious. My co-host Lisa Benson reacted angrily to Horne’s comments.  Horne came with an agenda to yesterday’s program. It was to put both he and his GM supporters in Arizona in the best possible light.  As I said in an after program dialogue with both Benson and Attorney General Horne, he came with a closed mind not to engage in meaningful dialogue. Problem is that he evinced no curiosity about the evidence presented. That was not his purpose; it was trolling for votes in a hotly contested Republican primary for the top law officer position in Arizona.
Listen to the podcast of the Lisa Benson Show of August 24, 2014 with Nidra Poller and Arizona Attorney General Thomas Horne.

Here is Tom Horne's Concession speech American politicians who are in the pockets of the Turkish Gulen Movement will be removed from office, in shame.  Tom Horne will be lucky to be in private law practice after we are done with him. Brnovich  ran a very effective campaign against him and is vowing to investigate the Gulen Turkish Schools in Arizona. 


Friday, August 8, 2014

Gulen Politicians in Ohio, questioned about Turkey trip and the answer is PORK?

Gulen and his "boys" lead lobbyists for Turkey, Azerbaijan and other
Turkic Countries (L) Faruk Taban   (R) Kemal Oksuz
More information on Turkish Lobbying

Is the Gulen Movement getting into Pork Exports to Turkey? (Alleged)
hog farmers, money and politics Rory Ryan Rory Ryan Rory Ryan Publisher/Editor

Maybe I need to be a little more careful about what I write. Maybe not. Typically, if I wrote, I'll stand by it – until, of course, a new set of information arises. That said, last week, I wrote that it would be nice if State Rep. Cliff Rosenberger and Highland County Commissioner Jeremy Shaffer would publicly share precisely what benefits to Highland County have been derived from their Niagara Foundation-funded "economic trade mission" to Turkey in 2011. I also offered an invitation to members of the local Republican Party to publicly share their thoughts on Turkish money and its impact in Ohio politics, government and, more importantly, education. Maybe I should ask the Turks, themselves. After all, as has been widely reported, more than $900 million of tax money earmarked for public education in the 2013-14 school year did not go toward public education. The Ohio School Boards Association reports: "Ohio Department of Education data shows traditional public schools will lose more than $870 million in state funding to charter schools in fiscal year 2014. "That's an increase of 5.4 percent over FY 2013, when approximately $824 million was transferred from traditional public schools to charters. "This increase comes amid ongoing reports of charter school mismanagement, conflicts of interest and felony indictments and convictions."

 At the July 30 meeting of the Highland County Board of Commissioners, Mr. Shaffer was asked, again, what local benefits have been derived from the much-publicized Niagara Foundation-funded trip to Turkey in 2011. The Niagara Foundation is linked to Islamist cleric Fethullah Gulen and his charter schools that are under a state and FBI investigation. Commissioner Shaffer stated that a "Mowrystown hog farm operation" has benefited from the state and local officials' 2011 Turkey trek through increased pork exports. He named the alleged owner of this alleged hog farm operation. Since I've known the alleged owner for more than 40 years, and since I've known his family to be cattle and crops farmers, I contacted him and asked how, exactly, he benefited from Ohio lawmakers and county officials traveling to the former Ottoman Empire. Suffice it to say that the alleged Mowrystown hog farmer was surprised to learn of his supposed good fortune. The farmer asked me to ask the Turkey travelers just two questions:
1. Where is this Highland County hog farm operation, so we can all visit it?
2. How did southern Ohio Republicans convince a multitude of Muslims to eat pork?

Not being a very smart man, I cannot answer either question, amusing as they are. Once again, I'll offer an invitation to those on the train to Istanbul to explain. (We'll give a pass to the Republican state representative with the 53 criminal indictments. He's been a bit pre-occupied since the 2011 sightseeing adventure.) The company some people keep… After much searching of our archives and other media archives, I have yet to determine precisely how Highland County has benefited from this so-called trade mission to Turkey. Let's remember, too, that some of these politicians send media "news" releases whenever they take as much as a pit stop in their respective districts. Granted, as a good friend of mine suggested, there are some days when I'm more confused than a schizophrenic house cat on a new mosaic floor. Maybe this is one of those days. At the very least, though, one would think the Ohio pols would remember the Turkish benefits to former Second District Congresswoman Jean Schmidt – another Republican – and point to that as some "accomplishment," her ethics violations notwithstanding. But, no. Silence remains golden.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Gulen Politicians Trips to Baku Conference raises ethics question

more information on Azerbaijan

Lawmakers' trips to Baku conference raise ethics questions Question lingers: Who paid tab for luxury jaunt prior to sanction vote? By Will Tucker and Lise Olsen July 26, 2014 | Updated: July 27, 2014 12:16am

In May 2013, Richard Lugar, former U.S. senator and onetime chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, took the podium at a sleek, modern convention center in the capital of Azerbaijan and urged the U.S. Congress to exempt a natural gas field in the Caspian Sea from economic sanctions against Iran. The Baku conference was sponsored in part by SOCAR, the Azeri national oil company, and the vast Shah Deniz gas field was a potential game-changer in the country's quest to become a major player in global energy circles. But one of SOCAR's partners in the Shah Deniz project was the Iranian national oil company, NIOC, and Congress was considering a new round of sanctions against Iran, Azerbaijan's neighbor, that could potentially derail a $28 billion project. The Azeris, SOCAR and other major energy partners in the Shah Deniz project desperately wanted an exemption. Ten congressmen and 35 staffers accepted all- expense-paid trips to the Baku conference. In Lugar's audience that day were three members of the U.S. House of Representatives who sit on the House Foreign Affairs committee considering Iranian sanctions - Texas Reps. Steve Stockman and Ted Poe, both Republicans; and Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y. Less than two months later, the day before the House vote, the Shah Deniz exemption mysteriously appeared in the final draft of the sanctions bill, which passed. It's unclear who engineered that last-minute change. Ethics rules at issue A Houston Chronicle analysis of reports that Stockman, Poe, Meeks and the seven other U.S. lawmakers later filed with the House Ethics Committee show that none disclosed any sponsorship of their Baku conference trips by corporations, foreign governments or lobbyists.

 Taking a foreign trip to a conference sponsored by corporations that employ lobbyists appears to be a violation of congressional ethics rules, according to the House ethics manual. The conference in Azerbaijan's capital included a discussion by Kemal Oksuz, right, with President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign manager, David Plouffe. Larry Luxner The conference in Azerbaijan's capital included a discussion by Kemal Oksuz, right, with President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign manager, David Plouffe. Only five of the 10 American lawmakers who made the Baku trip agreed to respond to the Chronicle's questions and said they complied with disclosure requirements. The 2013 conference, called "U.S.-Azerbaijan: Vision for Future," was held at the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, a gleaming white architectural masterpiece by the Caspian Sea that, though named for a despot, serves as a symbol of Azerbaijan's transformation from former Soviet-bloc state to an energy-rich political player. SOCAR, along with other Azeri government interests, has become one of Washington, D.C.'s big spenders in efforts to win American allies to get its petroleum products to markets worldwide. Public records, programs, photos, emails and interviews collected by the Chronicle confirm that lobbyists, the Azeri government and energy companies all participated in the elaborate Baku gathering. In addition to the 10 U.S. House members and staffers, state legislators and local politicians accepted all-expense-paid trips to the conference, which was festooned with the logos of SOCAR's powerful energy allies, including BP and ConocoPhillips.

Along with Stockman and Poe, Texas lawmakers Sheila Jackson Lee and Ruben Hinojosa, both Democrats, made the trip. At least four congressmen took along a spouse or fiancé. Some flew first-class and extended their trips with stays in luxury hotels in Turkey. The congressional travel tabs alone totaled $270,000, trip reports compiled by the Chronicle show. That doesn't include fees or expenses paid to former government officials, like Lugar, who attended as speakers. He declined an interview request. And according to documents, those bills were covered by five related, U.S.-based Turkic nonprofit organizations, one of which, the Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians, is based in Houston and described itself as the event's "organizer." Under federal law, the Turquoise Council was required to disclose any corporate support or foreign government assistance for the Baku congressional trips. The Chronicle's analysis indicates it did not. Scandals led to reforms Scandals involving jaunts enjoyed by lawmakers to Caribbean islands and lavish European golf outings prompted the House of Representatives in 2008 to approve reforms that banned lobbyists and corporations that employ U.S. lobbyists from planning or funding foreign trips. But foreign governments or corporations can still donate to nonprofits that give foreign trips to congressmen - a loophole that has created a boom in nonprofit-funded trips - provided both the nonprofits and the lawmakers disclose such support. "Knowing the sponsors of these fact-finding trips gives voters the opportunity to hold their representatives accountable for any improper relationships. Without transparency there is no accountability," said Benjamin Freeman, a senior policy adviser at the nonpartisan Third Way in Washington, D.C. "How often does this happen? The honest answer is that we have no idea, because we don't know who many of these sponsors are. That must change." The Baku conference, the marquee event of the congressional trips, featured a speech from Azerbaijan's president, Ilham Aliyev, whose family controls much of his country's wealth, and focused on Azerbaijan's political and energy agenda. It enjoyed substantial corporate support, including sponsorships from BP, ConocoPhillips and Caspian Drilling, as well as from SOCAR itself.

Energy giant BP confirmed with the Chronicle that it contributed $10,000 for the convention and gave more again this year for a follow-up event in Washington. In an email, Houston-based organizer Kemal Oksuz said the Turquoise Council received $10,000 from various sponsors for the Baku conference, whose names appeared on the conference website. But Oksuz did not disclose that in travel forms he filed for congressmen who accepted funding from his group. Oksuz said he did not have to disclose corporate sponsorships, in part, because "those contributions always came after the conventions." Nondisclosures illegal Lawmakers who went to Baku and nonprofits alike should have disclosed any corporate conference sponsorships, said Ken Boehm, an expert in congressional ethics who reviewed the records at the Chronicle's request. By failing to do so, even after seeing event banners and websites listing sponsors, congressmen may have violated ethics rules, he said.

Leaders of nonprofits that organized trips to Baku may have violated federal law by failing to disclose corporate sponsors, said Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, a nonprofit that promotes ethics in government. "Once the corporate sponsors admit their paid involvement, it's game over for whoever signed the House pre-trip forms stating falsely that there was no such sponsorship," he said. To pass muster, congressional "fact-finding" trips abroad must be organized principally for education purposes. Congressional officials must first ask the House Ethics Committee for permission to go, and sponsors must affirm that lobbyists will neither be involved in planning nor accompany House members on the trip. Nonprofits sponsoring trips must disclose support from corporations or foreign agents. And, once they return to the United States, lawmakers must report true sponsors of trips to the best of their knowledge. Records show that Meeks did not disclose his Baku trip expenses until a year after the deadline. Meeks did not respond to a request for comment. Congressman Poe and two other Houston-area House members - Stockman and Jackson Lee - spoke at the conference in Baku at the invitation of the Turquoise Council. All three took flights that cost from $10,500 to $12,000, more than the current advertised first-class fares. Stockman got another $5,000 in campaign contributions in three installments that same month from Oksuz personally. Neither Stockman nor Jackson Lee responded to any questions. Poe said all trip expenses were properly disclosed. "The congressman does not believe he was lobbied in Baku," said spokesperson Shaylyn Hynes. "He viewed the events as informational." Hinojosa emphasized that "all expenses were also reported and approved. The purpose for the trip was to learn more about U.S. interests, and in my case, educational programs that the Azerbaijani government is developing." Dominic Gabello, chief of staff for Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., said her boss used the trip as an "opportunity to learn more about the challenges Azerbaijan faces" and specifically questioned Azeri leaders about how they deal with poverty. "She has not been lobbied about specific issues," Gabello said. Vague tax records Oksuz, a Houston public relations director, serves as president of the Turquoise Council. He told the lone U.S. journalist present in Baku that the event cost around $1.5 million and that he'd offered speakers fees of $2,500. Some accepted gifts of hand-woven rugs, too, he told the Washington Diplomat.

Kemal Oksuz leads two nonprofits that share the same suite in a Galleria office tower, tax records show. Both groups were identified as sponsors or organizers of the Baku conference, and both have accepted money from SOCAR. One group, the Assembly of the Friends of Azerbaijan, operates as a U.S.-based public relations arm of SOCAR, according to foreign government lobbying disclosures filed in 2014. Via email, Oksuz answered a few basic questions, but then repeatedly delayed and canceled interviews requested by the Chronicle. He did not respond to requests to provide updated financial records that his nonprofit must disclose under state and federal laws. The Turquoise Council's 2012 nonprofit tax return, available on the Internet, is "bare bones," discloses no expenses related to trips for elected officials and provides unusually vague descriptions of major funding sources, said David Nelson, a Houston attorney who specializes in nonprofit law. '

Educational' trips Records show the Turquoise Council shared Baku congressional trip expenses with four other interconnected and obscure nonprofit organizations run by Turkic Americans, all of which claim to use "educational" trips to promote cross-cultural understanding, according to a Houston Chronicle review of dozens of federal disclosure records and nonprofit tax returns. The groups included the Turkic American Federation of Midwest, based in Chicago; an umbrella group called the Council of Turkic American Associations, based in New York City and the Turkic American Alliance, based in Washington, D.C.. Each group leader identified his own nonprofit as lone trip sponsor. Faruk Taban, leader of the Turkic American Alliance, said his group works to coordinate efforts among 240 different community associations. Generally, those groups work to "foster dialogue and understanding between Turkic states - in this specific case, Azerbaijan - and the U.S. Our work focuses as much on promoting understanding between the countries as between the communities," he said via email. Many of those nonprofits are led by followers of Fetullah Gulen, a moderate Turkish ex-imam who lives in exile in an enclave in Pennsylvania but wields a philosophical and political influence throughout the Islamic world.

Many Gulenists are involved in prep schools in Turkey and in Azerbaijan, as well as in charter schools in the United States, including the Harmony Schools in Texas. Denies hiring lobbyists Collectively, Turkic groups have funded 272 foreign trips for members of Congress and their staffs from 2009-2013, according to information analyzed by the Chronicle from a database of travel data compiled by LegiStorm. Together they have helped make Turkey the top foreign travel destination for members of Congress, after Israel. Trips to Azerbaijan are far less common. Oksuz said the Turquoise Council has no formal ties to Gulen. He denied retaining any lobbyists or foreign agents in disclosures he made as a Baku 2013 trip sponsor. Other records show that a SOCAR official in Azerbaijan, who normally would have nothing to do with visa approvals, helped Oksuz obtain visas for 21 people, including members of Congress and a lobbyist, Ari Mittleman of the Washington firm Roberti&White, a registered foreign agent. Records show lobbyists attended the conference - and two reported meeting with congressmen the day of their 12-hour return flight to the US.

There is no rule against lobbyists and congressmen meeting on foreign soil, though there is one forbidding them from accompanying each other on trips. "Once they get members overseas, it's kind of back to the wild, wild West of lobbying," said Freeman. "So long as the foreign agent and policymaker are overseas; the requirements for reporting meetings are void." Historical connection Azeri interests have continued conversations with D.C. lawmakers with help from one of the nonprofits run by Oksuz. In April, the Assembly of the Friends of Azerbaijan held another "U.S.-Azerbaijan: Vision for Future" convention, this time at the Willard Hotel in Washington. It is the lobby of the Willard, where influential men once stood around hoping to buttonhole President Ulysses S. Grant, that inspired the term "lobbyists." Many of the same sponsors from last year returned, including SOCAR, BP and ConocoPhillips. But several U.S. lawmakers advertised as speakers did not show up. Then came a late announcement: Rep. Steve Stockman would speak. Stockman walked to the podium and, in a booming voice, called for the U.S. to "stand by" Azerbaijan. "We have a lot of friends in the media who want to criticize this country, but I've been there," he said. "The future is there … One day I hope for a direct flight from Houston to Baku."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Gulen Turkish Movement Buys US influence HOUSTON — The secretive religious and political movement inspired by the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen has become a potent, and surprising, force in a set of obscure races for the House of Representatives, as Gülen sympathizers around the country donate tens of thousands of dollars to an overlapping set of candidates. The movement, whose leader draws intense interest from Washington to Ankara from his compound in rural Pennsylvania, has long involved itself in American life, organizing in particular around a group of charter schools and Turkish community institutions. Started in Turkey as a moderate Islamic movement in the secular 1960s and 1970s, the movement — also known as Hizmet, roughly meaning “service” in Turkish — runs schools, businesses, and media outlets around the world. There is no formal membership: Affiliates say they are “inspired” by Gülen and many groups aligned with him deny any official affiliation. But the movement’s agenda, in Turkey, has clarified in recent months. Gülen — who left Turkey for the Poconos in 1999 following charges that he was attempting to undermine the Turkish state — broke bitterly with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year over a corruption investigation that has rocked Erdogan’s party and that the prime minister has blamed on Gülen and his followers. Here in the United States, meanwhile, Gülen’s allies have been stepping up their involvement in U.S. politics, emerging as a force in districts from South Texas to South Brooklyn. Liberal Democrats like Yvette Clarke, Sheila Jackson Lee, and Al Green, and conservative Republicans like Ted Poe and Pete Olson have all benefitted from donors affiliated with Gülen in one way or another. Leaders in the movement deny that there is any top-down organization of the donations (or, indeed, that the Gülen movement has any organization at all), but the patterns of giving suggest some level of coordination in a community beginning to flex its political muscle. Gülen himself reportedly told followers in 2010 that they could only visit him in the Poconos if they donated to their local congressman, according to the Wall Street Journal, though Gülen has denied the comment. The donations, taken together, comprise significant totals for some U.S. House members in relatively safe seats. For instance, people connected to the Gülen-inspired charter schools donated $23,000 to Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee in October 2013 — a large sum considering Jackson Lee has raised just more than $130,000 this cycle in individual contributions, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission. The state of Texas is home to Harmony Public Schools, the Gülen-inspired network of charter schools that have inspired some controversy; the Harmony schools, and other Gülen-related educational institutions around the country, have been accused of abusing foreign worker visas and of using taxpayer money to favor Turkish businesses over others. And Houston and its southwest suburbs are a hub for the movement in the U.S. Many Turkish immigrants who live there work for Harmony or for other organizations with ties to the Gülen movement, such as the Texas Gulf Foundation, the Raindrop Foundation, or North American University, a relatively new STEM-focused school that sits on the side of a desolate highway in north Houston. Other Houstonites affiliated with Gülen groups gave to Rep. Henry Cuellar, Rep. Pete Olson, Rep. Ted Poe, Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine, and others. Though bundling political donations is common, Gülen-affiliated Houstonites said there was no top-down coordination of the donations. For instance, Metin Ekren, a Harmony educator who gave $2,000 to Sheila Jackson Lee in 2012 and $1,500 to her in 2013, said that Harmony did not tell its employees to donate. Ekren said he and “friends in the office” discuss such things, but that “usually Sheila Jackson Lee has a kind of donation meeting” and that’s how he had donated. He said he gives to other Democrats as well, though records show he has mostly given to Republicans, including Poe, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker. Erdal Caglar, Harmony’s chief financial officer, gave $1,500 to Jackson Lee in October 2013 at a fundraiser, he said. “She has been always a supporter of our schools,” Caglar said. “She has attended all major events that Harmony organized. And she expressed — you know, Harmony’s STEM, and she’s supporting STEM education.” Caglar said that Jackson Lee was helping Harmony’s effort to open a charter school in Washington, D.C. “As an educator, we support whoever supports our mission and vision and supports our activities,” Caglar said. Jackson Lee has taken an interest in charter schools recently, appearing at a school choice rally with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in January. Her campaign manager did not return requests for comment. Gülen sympathizers in Brooklyn, N.Y., have also begun to involve themselves in American political life, according to publicly available campaign finance documents from the last two election cycles. Many of New York’s Gülenist donors are based in Sheepshead Bay, a working-class neighborhood on the southern edge of Brooklyn that is home to a tight-knit Turkish community. Several members of the community said the Gülen movement operates out of the local branch of the Turkish Cultural Center, and that it counts many prosperous business owners as sympathizers. (An official from the center told BuzzFeed that many of the center’s organizers are “inspired” by Gülen, but that the organization itself is independent from him). Several local Gülen sympathizers told BuzzFeed that they feel attracted to the movement because of its tolerant religious ideas and its center-right, pro-business politics. Many of them have donated sums to the same U.S. politicians — including Rep. Yvette Clarke and Rep. Ed Towns, both New York Democrats, and Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Texas. Nonetheless, several Gülen supporters said that the movement played little role in their decision to give money to candidates. “We want to show the American people that Turkish-Americans care,” said Gokhan Karakollukcu, the owner of the Rocca Café on Emmons Avenue and a frequent donor to Clarke. When asked whether people affiliated with the movement had ever tried to influence his giving, Karakollukcu insisted that he had made his own choices and donated his own money. He likes Clarke, Karakollukcu said, because his wife is Jamaican and the congresswoman “does a lot for Caribbean issues.” Selahattin Karakus, who owns and operates Masal Café, said that he has donated to both Democratic and Republican candidates. When asked to name a Republican to whom he had donated, Karakus was unable to remember any of their names. When asked why he had decided to donate to Cuellar, a Democrat who represents a district in Texas several thousand miles away, Karakus said that he had “friends” in Texas and that he wanted to support candidates with strong pro-immigrant stances. (Cuellar introduced a bill with Republican Sen. John Cornyn that would allow the expedited deportation of the tens of thousand of undocumented minors who have recently arrived in the United States). Karakus also said that he supports the movement and that he regularly attends holiday dinners at the Turkish Cultural Center. He said that many of his political choices had emerged from discussions at the center, but was quick to add that nobody had forced him to donate to anyone and that he had only been given “advice” and “suggestions.” The money he donated, he said, was his own. The Gülen movement “doesn’t have any money to give anyone,” he said. “We have to give them money.” Officials at the Turkish Cultural Center in Sheepshead Bay echoed Karakus’ statements, telling BuzzFeed that they do not endorse candidates, solicit donations, or engage in any kind of political fundraising. “We are a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization,” said Suleyman Aydogan, the vice president of the Brooklyn branch of the center. “That would be illegal.” But Aydogan, who said he supports the movement and has personally met Gülen, also said that he has done fundraising for New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and for Sheepshead Bay Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz. He said that his role in the Turkish Cultural Center, his sympathies for Gülen, and his work as a political fundraiser were completely separate from one another. When asked whether the Turkish Cultural Center does any kind of political work, Aydogan said that it extends to inviting politicians to speak at dinners and other events. He suggested that donors might have met politicians at these dinners, or perhaps at the convention that the Turkic American Alliance, the center’s parent organization, holds every year in Washington, D.C. “We invite everyone, but not everyone shows up,” Aydogan said. “That’s how we know who supports the Turkish community.” Spokespeople for the members of Congress who have been on the receiving end of Gülenist largesse said they weren’t aware of any connection between their members and the movement. Cuellar, for example, is one of the main beneficiaries of Gülen-affiliated money, receiving donations from nearly 30 people connected to the movement in the 2014 election cycle. Cuellar has taken an interest in Turkish affairs and is a member of the Caucus on U.S.–Turkey Relations and Turkish Americans. Donations from people connected to the Gülen movement to Cuellar came not only from Texas, but also New York and Illinois. Cuellar’s campaign manager said that the campaign wasn’t aware of any particular fundraising efforts targeting the Gülen movement. “I’m not aware of a specific effort that we made” with the group, Cuellar’s campaign manager Colin Strothers said. “We raise hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and it comes from all over the place. We notice every check and every online donation that we get.” Strothers said these kinds of donations typically come from fundraising events where “we show up and they’ve invited friends and co-workers and peers and things like that.” A spokesman for Olson, who raised thousands from several people connected to the movement in September 2013, has appeared at events for the Turkic American Alliance and the Gülen Institute, and whose chief of staff traveled to Istanbul and Ankara on the Turkic American Alliance’s dime last year, said Olson had no particular connection to the movement. “Congressman Olson is honored to represent one of the most ethnically diverse counties in America,” said his campaign consultant Chris Homan. “As such, he meets with people to discuss free trade, improving economic relationships between Texas and overseas markets, and strengthening U.S. partnerships with nations who share our national security concerns. His commitment to stronger economies and stronger democracies has earned him broad support from across the district. We are not aware of any connection to the groups you mentioned.” The Turkic American Alliance, the umbrella group that encompasses a number of U.S.-based Gülenist organizations, held a plush iftar dinner attended by lawmakers and their staffs on Capitol Hill last week. Green, Jackson Lee, and Clarke, as well as Reps. Andre Carson and Joe Garcia attended. Attendees filled about two-thirds of the Cannon Caucus Room; when a reporter arrived, staff asked her to sit near the front since it was looking a little thin. Members of Congress spoke, and then a video about Ramadan played before the breaking of the fast with soup and fried fish at sunset. Faruk Taban, the president of the alliance, told BuzzFeed in an interview that his organization does not organize members of its groups for political donations. “We don’t do that kind of stuff, we’re a 501©(3),” Taban said. Their focus is more on building relationships with members of Congress by, for example, taking them on paid trips to Turkey and Azerbaijan; the Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians and the Council of Turkic American Associations, both TAA member groups, have taken members including Cuellar, Clarke, Jackson Lee, Poe, and Rep. Steve Stockman on such trips in the past two years. Taban is planning another trip to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in September. Taban attributed the clusters of donations to the tight-knit nature of the immigrant communities they come from. “Like any diaspora communities they have strong ties among them,” he said. “So if anything happens, it’s word of mouth; they have friends and go to the same ethnic restaurants, they shop at the same ethnic restaurants.” The movement’s involvement in U.S. politics, he said, began in 2007, when Turkish immigrants lobbied to squash an Armenian genocide recognition bill. “After that it’s kind of got the momentum,” he said. The major Gülen organizations, he said, play a role in helping people from local communities get involved in DC, but that’s it. Gülen himself is “a very shy person” and is not personally involved in asking his followers to contribute, Taban said. Asked how young teachers at the charter schools could afford to give maximum donations in congressional races, Taban said, “Turkish people are very generous” and that “a lot of business people in the community reach out to other people.” The alliance, he said, is more focused on state legislatures. And Taban “doesn’t necessarily see the correlation” between the political strife in Turkey and the political giving in the U.S. But in “all kind of activities we are growing,” Taban said. “The scope and the size and everything else, we try to do more.”

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Gulen Azerbaijan lobbying in Tennessee backfires

Rep. Joe Towns "Just a coincidence I received $10,000 from Azerbaijan lobbying and
then shortly after tries to pass a resolution in Tennessee about Azerbaijan.

by Phil Williams
Chief Investigative Reporter

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A lawmaker's $10,000 campaign contribution and a resolution he introduced this year in the legislature are reviving questions about foreign influences on Tennessee's Capitol Hill.

Last year, NewsChannel 5 Investigates first revealed how advocates for foreign countries were taking your lawmakers on expensive junkets.

Now, we've discovered a case of mysterious donors handing out money for a legislative campaign.

During a hurried legislative session dominated by all sorts of contentious issues, state Rep. Joe Towns found time to introduce a House resolution -- HR 145 -- calling for national support for the country of Azerbaijan.

"Let me tell you where it came from -- it actually came from friends that I know that are from Azerbaijan," the Memphis Democrat told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

An oil-rich, predominantly Muslim country -- where Eastern Europe meets western Asia -- Azerbaijan has been involved in a decades-old dispute with the predominantly Christian country of Armenia over territory that both countries claim.

Towns said he agreed to introduce the resolution because Azerbaijan is a U.S. ally.

"You did not just come up with this one your own?" we asked.

"No, no, no," Towns answered.

"And you knew nothing about the conflict between these two countries?"

"No, I did not."

But Armenian immigrant Barry Barsoumian said, "Those brutal people, they are trying to change history by going around different states in the United States passing resolutions."

Barsoumian discovered Towns' resolution and could not believe anyone would ask a Tennessee lawmaker to help a country known for its human rights abuses and whose leader is seen as one of the world's most corrupt.

"I asked him if it was Azerbaijani Embassy. He denied it," Barsoumian recalled. "But he wouldn't name or tell me what organization was behind it."

But NewsChannel 5 Investigates looked at Towns' campaign reports and discovered he introduced the resolution just two weeks after he got a total of $10,000 in campaign contributions from people out of Texas with ties to the Azerbaijani community.

"This one was probably in Texas, Houston," Towns said, looking at his campaign disclosure.

"You had a fundraiser in Houston?" we asked.

"Uh-huh. I've had fundraisers in other places before. That's true."

"Who hosted that fundraiser?"

"Well, my friends. Friends of mine."

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "Who in particular?"

"Well, I don't want to get involved in their names because this is about me," Towns answered. "I don't want to talk about their names and who they were."

Still, our investigation discovered that a Turkish-Azerbaijani cultural center in Houston appears to be the common connection for all seven of the contributors, who reportedly gave either $1,000 or $1,500 each to Towns' campaign.

"Did the people who gave you the $10,000 ask you to introduce this resolution?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Towns.

"No, they didn't. Did not," he responded.

"It's purely coincidental?"

"Oh, of course."

But Barsoumian called it "suspicious [that] somebody in Tennessee would introduce a bill for Azerbaijan and then those organizations funnel money to his campaign."

One of the contributors listed on Towns' campaign report as having given a thousand dollars first told us, "That's wrong information. I don't know anyone from Tennessee."

Later he changed his story, saying "I remember something like that. I never met him. I did it through my friends, my community."

Adding to the mystery: almost a third of the money supposedly came from two people who live in an apartment in one of Houston's roughest neighborhoods.

In fact, we identified $13,000 in contributions in the last two years to various candidates around the country from just one low-rent apartment.

So we went back to Representative Towns.

"Does that strike you as odd?" we asked.

"See, in order for me to know that," he responded, "I would have to know the lay of the land down there, the people. I don't know. I don't know."

But when Towns' resolution came up in committee, members of the Armenian community had already lobbied other lawmakers to kill the bill.

The resolution never even got a vote -- a strange end to what some consider a strange piece of legislation.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Towns, "You attend a fundraiser and then suddenly you are introducing this resolution. Do you understand why someone might be suspicious?"

"I can't deal with people's suspicion," he said. "I don't address their suspicion. The fact is that it happens all the time."

Some of the contributors appear to have connections to groups who've taken Tennessee officials on free trips to Turkey and Azerbaijan.

Towns was supposed to go on one of those trips last year, but he wasn't able to go.

Still, he did sponsor another House resolution that essentially accused Armenia of war crimes.

That resolution actually passed the House on a 93-0 vote.

So why would Azerbaijan care about what the Tennessee House thinks about world affairs?

It appears to be part of an orchestrated PR campaign to show that world opinion is on their side.

Towns said that he hopes it leads to better understanding of all the countries in that region.


Related story:
Turkish Groups Offer Free Foreign Trips For Lawmakers