LOBBYING TRACKER

PRESENTED BY

DATAPOINTS

Includes Halkbank

$5.6 Million

LOBBYING SPEND (2018)

7

LOBBYING/PR FIRMS

31

REGISTERED AGENTS

AL-MONITOR
LOBBYING RANK

#22

Venable
Greenberg Traurig subcontractor
(for Turkey)

Hired: Feb. 2019

NEW Informational materials

Loren Aho, a Turkey lobbyist working for Venable, sent a story on Turkey’s delivery of medical supplies to the United States to a House aide.

LB International Solutions
Greenberg Traurig subcontractor
(for Turkey)

Hired: 2014
2018 fees: $270,000 (from Greenberg Traurig)

NEW Supplemental
(Oct. 1, 2019 – March 31, 2020)

NEW Contract renewal

LB International Solutions was paid $135,000 by Greenberg Traurig for its Turkey work in the six-month period ending March 31. During that time period, the firm disclosed meetings with Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Mich. (Oct. 31); Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio (Oct. 31), Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. (Nov. 7) and Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif. (Dec. 11), and also disclosed meetings with Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla. (Feb. 10), Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio (Feb. 10), Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif. (Feb. 10), Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa. (Feb. 10), Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio (Feb. 10), Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. (Feb. 10) and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. (Feb. 13).

LB International Solutions has also renewed its contract with Greenberg Traurig to work for Turkey through 2020. LB International Solutions will be paid $270,000 per year.

Mercury Public Affairs
New contract
(for Turkey-US Business Council)

Hired: Jan. 2020
Contract: $1 million

NEW Informational materials

NEW Registered foreign agent
Jock McMillan

Mehmet Ali Yalcindag, the chairman of the Turkey-US Business Council (TAIK), sent letters to Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic governor of New York, and Larry Hogan, the Republican governor of Maryland, that noted that the “Turkish business community stands in strong solidarity with you and your constituents and that TAIK members are eager to explore partnerships that can keep the people of your states healthy and save lives.” Yalcindag also invited both governors to join a TAIK webinar to “share the needs and experiences of your state directly to the TAIK business community.” In an email attached to the Cuomo letter, John Tomlin, a former New York state political operative turned Mercury senior vice president, told a Cuomo aide that he got his contact information from Charlie King, a Mercury partner who was Cuomo’s running mate in a failed bid for governor in 2002. The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay first wrote about the New York filing on Thursday.

For TAIK, Mercury distributed fact sheets on Turkey’s economic ties with IndianaIowa and Mississippi. Previously, Mercury disclosed distributing similar fact sheets for FloridaIdahoIllinoisKansasNew HampshireOhioTennessee and Texas.

A fifth Mercury employee with British political connections has begun working for some of the firm’s Middle East clients. Jock McMillan will work for Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord and the Turkey-US Business Council, or TAIK. According to his LinkedIn page, McMillan served as deputy head of digital for former conservative politician Rory Stewart’s failed bid for mayor of London until this month. Timothy Sculthorpe, a former deputy political editor at the Daily Mail and adviser to United Kingdom Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid, and Ben Westlake-Tritton, a former communications manager at 10 Downing Street for Theresa May’s conservative government, are also registered to work on the Libya and TAIK accounts. Meanwhile, former Labour Party staffer Louis Rynsard and George Tucker, a former British diplomat, work for Mercury client Q Cyber, an Israeli spyware company.

Finn Partners
(for Turkey Promotion Group)

Hired: June 2019
Contract: $55,000

NEW Supplemental (termination)
(Oct. 1, 2019 – March 31, 2020)

Finn Partners stopped working for the Turkish Exporters Assembly’s Turkey Promotion Group on Jan. 1. Finn Partners received $85,000 from the group in the six-month period ending March 31. The company disclosed preparing and sending press releases for the group. Finn Partners’ Haldun Dinccetin worked on the firm’s account with the Turkish Exporters Assembly’s Turkey Promotion Group before the firm stopped working for the group Jan. 1.

Mercury Public Affairs
(for Turkey)

Hired: May 2018
2018 fees: $758,000

NEW Informational materials

Mercury distributed a letter to the editor of the New York Times blasting an April 6 story on how autocrats are projecting “an aura of control” amid the novel coronavirus pandemic for Turkey, a client of the firm. The sole reference in the article to Turkey was a paragraph noting that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, “a prodigious jailer of journalists,” jailed journalists amid the pandemic and sent a message to elderly citizens saying things were under control. “Likening Turkey to an autocracy is a tired fiction and a mere repetition of unsubstantiated biases,” the letter to the editor claims. “That aside, in these unprecedented difficult times, nobody is at liberty to hoard much needed goods or deliberately mislead the public in order to provoke panic and civil disorder.” For Turkey, Mercury also disclosed distributing an op-ed by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on April 1 that was published by the conservative Washington Times one day later.

 

CHP Representative Office to the US

Registered: 2013

NEW Informational materials

The US office of the Turkish opposition Republican People’s Party distributed Turkish- and English-language materials raising questions about the Turken Foundation, a US nonprofit. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s daughter, Esra Albayrak, sits on the foundation’s board.

McGinn and Company
(for Halkbank)

Hired: Dec. 2017
2019 fees: $170,000

NEW Q1 domestic lobbying filing

Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank paid McGinn and Company $40,000 for “media counseling” in connection with the federal investigation into its activities. In October, the bank was indicted in federal court with scheming to circumvent US sanctions on Iran. Shortly after the indictment, Ballard Partners stopped representing the bank.

National Council on Civil Advocacy
(in-house)

Registered: Sept. 2019
2019 fees: $20,000

NEW Q1 domestic lobbying filing

Groups aligned with exiled Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, considered a terrorist by Ankara for his alleged role in a 2016 coup attempt, continued to lobby in the first quarter. The National Council On Civil Advocacy, which shares an address with the headquarters of the Rumi Forum, whose honorary chairman is Gulen, spent $70,000 on in-house lobbying on “proposals to address violations of human/civil rights violations in Turkey,” including a bill to provide support to “prisoners of conscience and politically motivated prisoners” in the country (the bill includes a section on Enes Kanter, an NBA athlete and outspoken critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who faces arrest if he returns to Turkey). The group’s lobbyist, Bilal Eksili, also lobbied on a bill focusing on efforts by foreign governments to use Interpol “for political and unlawful purposes.”

Fidelis Government Relations
(for National Council on Civil Advocacy)

Hired: Jan. 2020

NEW Q1 domestic lobbying filing

Supporters of exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen have brought on another lobbyist to advocate on human rights issues in Turkey, which blames Gulen for a failed coup in 2016. Bilal Eksili’s National Council of Civil Advocacy, which lobbies in-house, paid Fidelis Government Relations, an outside lobbying firm hired by Sextons Creek Consulting on behalf of the council, $20,000 to lobby Congress, the State Department, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom and Vice President Mike Pence’s office on “civil rights issues for citizens of Turkey.”

S-3 Group
(for Karsan USA)

Hired: March 2019

NEW Q1 domestic lobbying filing (termination)

The S-3 Group stopped lobbying for Karsan USA, the US subsidiary of Bursa, Turkey-based Karsan Automotive, March 31. The firm reported no lobbying activity and less than $5,000 in fees for the company in the first quarter of 2020.

Ankara lobbyists can’t mend US-Turkey rift

Editor

Julian Pecquet

@JPecquet_ALM

jpecquet@al-monitor.com
bookmark

Julian Pecquet is the Editor of Special Projects for Al-Monitor, where he supervises the award-winning Lobbying Tracker as well as managing long-form stories. Before that he covered the US Congress for Al-Monitor. Prior to joining Al-Monitor, Pecquet led global affairs coverage for the political newspaper The Hill.

Posted: September 11, 2019

Turkey spent more than $5.5 million last year trying to patch a deepening rift with the United States.

In the end, all it bought was heartache.

For years, Ankara has faulted its NATO ally for failing to fully grasp what Turkey views as existential threats, whether from Kurdish militants in Syria or alleged coup plotters under the supposed influence of a US-based cleric. Tensions finally came to a head this year when Turkey, infuriated by Washington’s 2015 decision to pull its Patriot missile batteries from the Syrian border, closed a rival arms deal with Russia.

Much of Turkey’s recent influence operations have aimed to convince Congress and the Donald Trump administration not to cancel its planned purchase of 100 F-35 jet fighters and to allow Turkey to continue producing some 900 parts for the plane. Turkish lobbyists have also spent countless hours trying to take down Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of masterminding the 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In a bid to eliminate a key irritant in bilateral relations, Ankara released US pastor Andrew Brunson in October 2018 after he served two years in prison on charges of involvement in the 2016 coup. But other sticking points could not be resolved.

After Turkey ignored repeated US warnings not to proceed with the Russian S-400 missile defense purchase, the White House canceled Ankara’s F-35 sale order in mid-July and booted it out of the international co-production program. A month later, the Pentagon told Al-Monitor that it had rescinded a $3.5 billion offer to sell Turkey Patriot missile batteries.

Attempts to convince the Trump administration to extradite Gulen also appear dead in the water.

After pocketing $500,000 in 2017 as the lead firm fighting to unravel a Gulen-linked network of US charter schools, Washington law firm Amsterdam & Partners saw its payments shrink to just $150,000 last year despite a $50,000-per-month contract. In its latest lobbying filing, the firm reported no political activity for the six months through April and blamed “bureaucratic inertia” for Turkey’s failure to pay up for 17 months.

Despite significant setbacks, Turkey can take some solace from the fact that its foes are also feeling the pinch.

Even as the anti-Erdogan mood in Washington promises a sympathetic ear, pro-Gulen lobbying has collapsed amid reports that the group is hurting for money as Turkey clamps down on its businesses. Sextons Creek and Fidelis Government Solutions both pulled out last summer, leaving only Cogent Strategies working for the Gulenist New York nonprofit Alliance for Shared Values.

Turkey’s campaign of damaging leaks regarding the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul has also paid off, with Saudi Arabia facing one of the worst hits to its reputation in Washington since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

And Ankara does have a few other wins in its column.

State-owned Halkbank spent more than $2 million last year lobbying to minimize the damage from its alleged violations of US sanctions on Iran. The bank’s former deputy director general, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, was released from US prison in July after serving a 32-month sentence but the bank itself has so far avoided fines in the case.

Turkey is also expressing satisfaction with its new deal with the United States on a safe zone along the Syrian border. US-backed Kurdish forces began moving away from the border late last month, allowing Erdogan to back off his threats to launch a new incursion into Syria.

Despite that rare diplomatic breakthrough, Turkey’s turn away from the United States appears to be irreversible. Following Ankara’s expulsion from the F-35 program, Erdogan attended an arms show with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in late August during which the two leaders shared their interest in Russian warplane sales to Turkey.

HIGHLIGHTS

Main lobbying firm:
Greenberg Traurig

 

 

$5.6 million

Total lobbying and PR spending for 2018

 

 

WINS
  • Trump tacitly OKs Syrian incursion
  • State Department rejects Armenian genocide designation
  • Pentagon seeks to limit fallout from worsening relationship
LOSSES
  • Congress recognizes Armenian genocide
  • Congress votes to lift arms embargo on Cyprus
  • Halkbank indicted on sanctions-busting charges

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