DATAPOINTS

Includes Halkbank

$5.6 Million

LOBBYING SPEND (2018)

8

LOBBYING/PR FIRMS

33

REGISTERED AGENTS

AL-MONITOR
LOBBYING RANK

#20 (tie)

Ballard Partners
(for Halkbank)

Hired: Aug. 2017
2018 fees (including reimbursements): $1.5 million

NEW Contract

Ballard Partners has extended its contract with Turkish state-owned bank Halkbank through Nov. 20, at which point the contract is set to continue on a month-to-month basis. The firm will be paid $40,000 (Halkbank’s original contract set Ballard Partners’ fees at $125,000 per month).

Ankara lobbyists can’t mend US-Turkey rift

Editor

Julian Pecquet

@JPecquet_ALM

jpecquet@al-monitor.com
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Julian Pecquet is the Washington Editor for Al-Monitor.

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 A month later, the Pentagon told Al-Monitor that it had rescinded a $3.5 billion offer to sell Turkey Patriot missile batteries.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
  • US and Turkey agree on Syria cease-fire zone
  • State-owned Halkbank avoids sanctions
  • Turkish rivals lose lobbying clout
LOSSES
  • Pentagon ejects Turkey from F-35 program
  • US uninterested in extraditing alleged coup plotter
  • Trump steel and aluminum tariffs remain in place

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