Corrupt Politicians and Tools of the Gulen Movement

Corrupt Politicians and Tools of the Gulen Movement
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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

House Ethics Committee didn't prosecute politicians, Gulenists Kemal Oksuz Missing

esterday, I reported on the House Ethics Committee's 28-page exoneration of Danny Davis and lots of other representatives in the matter of an illegal junket arranged by former Niagara Foundation Executive Director Kemal Oksuz.

In short, the Committee found no major wrongdoing on the part of the representatives, and it took a ridiculous swing at the Washington Post for leaking information about the investigation. The Committee is not going to do anything else about the scandal, although the report was very clear that laws were probably broken, and that Mr. Oksuz exercised his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination in response to a subpoena.

It looked like a dodge to me. It looked to me like the Committee was looking for a way to avoid looking into the central question of the whole thing: how did Azerbaijan's gas project get a mysterious exemption from the Iran sanctions?

It's a pretty big question, and they took a dive on it.  *[See below for one theory.]

I still don't know why, but I did look into the Committee's membership, and what I found was this: out of the ten members of the Ethics Committee, only five can't be connected to other junkets sponsored by Gulen-linked organizations. 

So, a committee of ten looking into the ethics of a giant Gulen-linked junket to Azerbaijan (and Turkey) has five members who have been on the receiving end of very similar junkets, sponsored by people easily connected to the people at play in the Azerbaijan junket.

Let's look at the Committee: The names highlighted in yellow are people who are somewhat compromised on this topic because they're connected to Gulen-sponsored junkets.

Only one Committee member appears to have recused herself. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) sat out because she herself was on the Azerbaijani junket--- the one being investigated. Good for her.  It was already common knowledge that she was on the trip, but I don't think it's widely understood that her junket-provider was another one of these shell foundations--- not one of the phony-baloney Texas ones that Mr. Oksuz cooked up, and has since lawyered up over. Ms. Clarke got sent by this Council of Turkic American Associations thing out of New York.

Tuck that name away; it comes up later in this post. 

If you're going to follow this story, you just have to accept that there are dozens of these 503 (c)'s around the country; I can't keep up with them. It's all run by a relatively small number of guys; they just keep inventing group names and changing them. That's how they roll. By the way, Mr. Kosar --- the guy sponsoring Ms. Clarke-- is affiliated with at least three Gulen-linked charter schools.  

You also have to accept that none of these Ethics Committee people are willing to acknowledge publicly the long reach of the Gulen Movement in the Azerbaijani scandal, or in their own junketing experiences. They don't mention the name; they don't acknowledge the relationships, the long courtship, the favors, the money. The Gulen Movement is the invisible hand behind the entire scandal; it touches the investigators and the targets.

Interestingly, Patrick Meehan (R-PA), one of the four completely clean members of this Committee, was the US Attorney who argued against Fethullah Gulen's visa in court in 2008. (Fascinating, read it some time. It's pretty blunt.) It doesn't surprise me that he's never been on a Gulen-sponsored junket to Turkey, Azerbaijan, or anywhere else. He can probably smell a rat from pretty far away. 

So, who on the Committee is compromised, to one extent or another? It's mainly the Democrats, as you can see above. It always pains me a bit to go after the political party I usually vote for, but that's just how this has all played out.

Linda Sanchez (D-CA) and her spouse went on Gulen-sponsored junket in 2011, sponsored by the West America Turkic Council, another one of these 503 (c)'s.

There's a name that keeps coming up, that particular fellow. Two charter schools connected to him (Sonoran Science Academy, Tuscon; BayTech, Oakland). He's the guy that can't find qualified math teachers in the US, so he brings people in from.... you guessed it....

I guess it's remotely possible that Ms. Sanchez could fail to connect the dots between her 2011 junket and this 2013 junket, even though her host and the 2013 host are closely connected to each other and politically well connected, I might add.  In all likelihood, though, she probably should have recused herself. She put herself in a position of having to police the friends of friends and people who've given her gifts.  I apologize for this error; it was Ms. Sanchez's sister -- who is also in Congress--- who took this junket. Probably still a hazy area of ethics, but my feeling right now is that it wouldn't call for a recusal. 

 Look, here's her (sister's) host, Ozkur Yildiz, schmoozing with President Obama. Mr. Oksuz might also be in that picture; it's hard to tell. He was at the event.

There is some discussion online about the Mr. Yildiz's changing appearance over time. I'll let you research it; I can't verify any of it, but in chronologically close images he does seem to be one person and then another.

John Larson (D-CT) has not reported a Gulen-sponsored junket for himself, but two of his staff members have been guests of the Gulen Movement. His staffers have received trips from non-Gulenist Turkish organizations as well, so Mr. Larson might have some insights about the different agendas of these trips, but who knows? Interestingly, Mr. Larson's staffer's junkets were paid for by the same group that paid for Yvette Clarke's 2013 junket --- and she recused herself. For example, this one:

Are you following? Rep. Clarke recused herself because she went to Azerbaijan in 2013 during the mega-junket under investigation. Rep. Larson, on the other hand, had staffers going to Turkey earlier in time, paid for by the same dude. It's right there in the gray zone, in terms of ethics, isn't it? He probably should have recused himself. If this thing were a jury, he'd have to declare that relationship.

Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) also had a staffer go on a Gulen-sponsored junket, in the early days of the Gulen junket program (2008). The itinerary is fascinating; it's a laundry list of Gulenist organizations, as well as Turkish political figures. It shows how closely connected the Gulen Movement was to the Turkish government in 2008. 

This particular junket was sponsored by the Turkish Cultural Center of New York, which we don't hear much about here in the midwest.  They were the group that glommed onto Bill Clinton in 2008.

Mr. Yoncu, the sponsor, can be found in the Gulenist press from time to time. 

This connection to Rep. Capuano is a bit tenuous--- it was long ago; I would be surprised is Representative Capuano's staffer even realized there was a connection. It's fine with me that he didn't recuse himself.

Democrat Ted Deutch appears to be completely untouched by Gulen-linked travel. He's been to Turkey, and so have his staffers, but the travel has not been sponsored by any of the Gulenist organizations.

Of the Republicans on the Committee... only Charlie Dent (from Pennsylvania, oddly) is touched by Gulen-sponsored travel. He appears to have been on the same junket as the Larson staffers in 2011.  So, he probably should have recused himself from the Azerbaijani investigation. Rep. Dent is the chair of the Ethics Committee; he traveled to Turkey in 2011 on the dime of the very same person who sent Rep. Clarke to Azerbaijan in 2013. He definitely should have recused himself, now that I think about it.

The other Republicans on the Committee are apparently clean, in terms of Gulen-sponsored travel. Ms. Brooks is very new to Congress, although the Gulenists are reaching out to her, big time. Here she is with FBI search warrant target Bilal Eksili.  Mr. Gowdy has not reported any Turkish travel, nor has the Texan, Mr. Marchand (he has made a cameo at one of the Gulen-linked charter schools in that dreadful state, or they visited him. I can't tell from the picture.)

I guess I understand why the Committee didn't pursue the big question of the Azerbaijani episode: both the chair and the ranking member have personal exposure, and so do other members. But I think the Republicans might have been asleep at the wheel here.

Given how much the Republicans are moaning and groaning about the possible lifting of the Iran sanctions, they probably could have painted this thing as another example of the Democrats going out of their way to weaken the Iran sanctions before eventually just bargaining them away. But then again, the Republicans have their own exposure with the Ethics Committee chair. I'm glad they didn't go down that road, but they could have.

It may be over, but it still stinks. The event itself was appalling, and the investigation was pretty much a whitewash. If there's any question about the value these junkets have as an investment for the Gulen Movement, there shouldn't be. It's obvious.

*About the Shah Deniz exemption to the Iran sanctions:  Evidently the exemption was sponsored by Rep. Greg Meeks (D-NY), at least according to this. Meeks was on the junket.Here he is with with Kemal Oksuz, the guy who took the 5th Amendment rather than get into a discussion with the Ethics Committee. So, Meeks possibly did the quid pro quo for the junket, but I'm guessing he wasn't alone. The weirder thing is that the Ethics Committee isn't taking the issue up at all.

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