Corrupt Politicians and Tools of the Gulen Movement

Corrupt Politicians and Tools of the Gulen Movement
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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Gulen influence in US Congress
The vast, wide-ranging infiltration of state institutions by the Fethullah Gülen organization is widely known in Turkey, where events such as the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer trials, as well as the July 15 attempted coup, have shown just how powerful and how deep its influence runs.
However there is much less awareness regarding the scale and scope of Gülen’s influence in Washington DC, where for years his organization has been using highly coordinated political donations, top-shelf lobbyists and PR firms, while funding scores of lavish all-expenses-paid trips to Turkey for U.S. lawmakers (this of course later became a scandal before the House Ethics Committee). Now that Turkey is seeking Gülen’s extradition to stand trial for the attempted coup, this secretive organization has begun calling in its favors to all these lawmakers with whom they hold influence.

This campaign on behalf of the Gülenists culminated on September 14 in a hearing put together by the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee, an event which predictably devolved into a one-sided, absurd farce. This hearing, which appeared to many observers to have been put together with the clear goal of attacking the Turkish government and defending Mr. Gülen, has been the source of significant insult and anger to people in Turkey.

During the proceedings Committee Chairman Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) made a number of highly opinionated and unsubstantiated claims regarding Gülen’s role in the coup. At one point, the Congressman said he didn’t think the Republic of Turkey’s case against Gülen was “credible,” and said that Turkey had “erred” by arresting members of the Gülen organization. The California lawmaker went on to denounce the security measures taking place in the aftermath of the coup, scolding the Turkish authorities over arrests without any mention of the scale of threat facing the country’s national security.

Rep. Randy Weber, a Republican Congressman from Texas (the location of Gülen’s largest charter school operation), led the questioning of witnesses, at one point even said of the accused coup leader, “he’s doin’ some good work,” and then later asked a number of leading questions, such as “Do you agree… that, generally speaking, Gulen is viewed as doing some pretty good things… here and in Turkey?”
The insult here is obvious and profound. It would be similar to holding a hearing to discuss Hezbollah’s charitable activities in Lebanon immediately following a deadly bombing in Tel Aviv, but of course, special rules seem to apply when it comes to Turkey.

One thing that Rohrabacher, Weber, and others did not mention was their long history of contacts – both personal and financial – between Gülen-linked entities and those leading these hearings. There is simply no reasonable basis that these men can consider themselves impartial to the Gülen movement after such a long history of close engagement.
There is no shortage of examples. In 2011, Rohrabacher was wined and dined at Gülen’s Anatolian Cultures and Food Festival, where he happily endorsed his hosts: “Merhaba, [“Hello”] Today I want to thank the Pacifica Institute and those who helped put this program together to create better relations between the two nations. Thank you for doing your part. Let’s reach out and be friends. God bless you.”
Later that year, the Gülenists hand-picked Rohrabacher to speak at their 2nd annual Turkic American Alliance Gala. Rohrabacher was again the celebrity featured guest at the 3rd Turkic American Convention. In 2013, he again attended another Gülen-led food festival, this time accompanied by Ed Royce, Loretta Sanchez, Michael Honda, and Allen Lowenthal, which at the time was boastful of the “strong proof of the lobbying potential of the festival.” There are at least three more public events held by the Gulenists that Rohrabacher is known to have attended, in addition to taking a paid trip to Istanbul on behalf of Tukson in 2011.
But he’s far from the only one on the committee that has been owned and operated by Gülen. There’s Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) who accepted the Rumi Forum’s Congressional Dialogue Service Award in 2008, sent a staffer on a paid trip to Turkey, went on his own $7,000 trip to Baku paid for by the Gülenists, and has given speeches at a number of key Gülen events, such as the 2011 Turkic American Alliance Gala. Rep Meeks was even so grateful to Gülen that he made one of his disciples a congressional staffer for a few months.

Then there’s Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), who was present at the hearing to lob insults at Turkey and shield Gülen from criticism. Rep. Brooks of course was one of those many lawmakers who accepted not one, but two fully paid trips to Turkey by Gülen’s Istanbul Center, and has been a featured guest at least four key events, including several Turkic American Convention events in 2013.
The list goes on and on. Rep. Gerry Connolly has received gratuitous honors from Rumi Forum, American Turkish Friendship Association, and has sent a staffer on a Gulen-paid trip, while Rep. Paul Cook has his photo up on the Turkic American Alliance website and also was a signatory on the Matt Salmon letter to John Kerry (among most of the other committee members as well). Rep. Weber has given speeches at several events organized by the Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians, and helped to pass a visa waiver law to benefit Gülen’s charter school operation. Amazingly, appeared on stage at the International Festival of Language and Culture in Washington DC in April 2016, where he praised Gülen and called him “our good friend.”
Is it possible that these same lawmakers who are honored and featured guests at so many Gülen events would also be the recipients of coordinated political donations by Hizmet members? Certainly some whistleblowers within the organization have spoken openly about being instructed to donate every year to specific congressional and senate campaign races.

How are U.S. citizens meant to understand the true reality of what happened in Turkey leading up the coup if these are the men who purport to hand down interpretation? At the very least, they should do the honorable gesture of declaring their bias before getting into the work of defending their client.
A hearing like this, consisting of such incredibly biased tone aimed at benefiting a single individual, does very little to educate the public on the real issues facing Turkey and the importance of the U.S.-Turkey alliance. In fact, it causes significant damage to relations between the countries. Looking at the outcome of this hearing, one can finally begin to picture the true size and scale of Gülen’s power and influence, even within the U.S. government.

Lt. Governor of Arkansas Tim Griffin questioned about Gulen Schools (Lisa Academy)

Turk exile, charter schools


Flynn-linked acquaintance called him last year, he says

This article was published May 11, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.
Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin is shown in this 2015 file photo.
Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin said Tuesday that he got a call from an old Washington, D.C., acquaintance last fall asking about connections between local charter schools and a Turkish exile -- but the caller never mentioned that his work was being contracted by Michael T. Flynn.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Gulen vs. Turkey, 1 man is wanted by the Republic of Turkey why is politics keeping him and his network of charter schools

Lobbying war rages over Turkish exile
© Getty Images
A high-stakes lobbying and public relations battle is being waged between the government of Turkey and a single man, Fethullah Gulen.
The country has targeted Gulen, a roughly 76-year-old Turkish-born religious leader living in self-exile in rural Pennsylvania, for more than two decades.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is likely to raise the topic of Gulen’s status when he visits President Trump at the White House on Tuesday. Erdogan blames Gulen for a failed coup last summer and wants him extradited to Turkey.
Both sides in the battle claim they are being outgunned. 
Turkey, a NATO member country, has expansive resources and intelligence capabilities and spends millions of dollars on lobbying and consulting in the United States.
Gulen, meanwhile, has a sprawling network of charter schools and organizations around the world affiliated with a movement he launched known as Hizmet — which means “service” — that centers on interfaith dialogue, public service and promoting science, technology, engineering and math education.
The fight at one point even swept up former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn, who had to retroactively register as a foreign agent for work he did last year for a private company that could have been beneficial to Turkey.
His firm, the Flynn Intel Group, was tasked with investigating Gulen and overseeing the creation of a documentary about the cleric. He published an op-ed in The Hill condemning Gulen, but the film was apparently never finished.
Gulen-connected organizations are also leaning on K Street for help. 
Washington Strategy Group, a lobbying firm founded by the leader of a regional arm of the Turkic American Alliance, a Gulen-connected group, is among those hiring up. In the last few months, it has contracted with the Estopinan Group — launched by Art Estopinan, the former chief of staff to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) — and Gotham Government Relations.
This Washington Strategy Group is not affiliated with a firm founded by Joel Rubin, which has the same name.
Some of the groups supportive of Gulen are believed to have helped arrange trips to Turkey and nearby countries for lawmakers, including one visit to Azerbaijan in 2013 that became the subject of a congressional ethics probe. Gulenists — a term for those who subscribe to the Hizmet movement — are said to be prolific political donors.
Gulen, a former Erdogan ally, has been blamed for orchestrating a failed military coup last summer with the goal of undermining Erdogan, which forced the crackdown that ensued. Gulen condemned the coup attempt and denied involvement. Turkey wants the U.S. to hand Gulen over and has been sending alleged evidence of wrongdoing to the Justice Department.
The Turkish government has long claimed that followers of Gulen are infiltrating the government ranks in order to overthrow it, and one firm working on behalf of Turkey called the movement a “cult,” while also drawing comparisons to the mafia.
Those close to Gulen maintain that Gulen-affiliated organizations are peaceful.
“This is about values, it’s about projects and institutions; it is not about a person. Yes, we have friends all around the globe. … And in most of these places, they earn praise for their services to their community,” said Y. Alp Aslandogan, the executive director of the Alliance for Shared Values, a Gulen-connected umbrella organization that supports regional affiliates. Last year, the group hired the Podesta Group for both lobbying and public relations.
The network of entities inspired by or connected to Gulen is opaque and difficult to track, as many groups do not directly identify themselves as part of the movement.
Much of the lobbying on behalf of Gulen-connected groups appears to focus on the political environment in Turkey.
Brad Gerstman, a founding partner of Gotham Government Relations, said that his firm’s lobbying work on behalf of a Gulen-connected group is primarily focused on making the Trump administration aware of how Erdogan is wielding his influence around the world. His firm worked for the Trump Organization in New York for years and helped roll out Trump’s presidential campaign announcement.
Over the last year, Erdogan has taken heat from international human rights organizations for arresting his opponents and shuttering independent media outlets. Gulenists in other countries are being arrested at the direction of the Turkish leader.
When a controversial referendum last month granted Erdogan sweeping powers, Trump was the only world leader to call and congratulate him. 
Erdogan’s visit to Washington on Tuesday follows on the heels of a trip from his justice minister, who reportedly pressed his U.S. counterpart, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, to extradite Gulen. 
The country has an army of U.S. firms working on its behalf and has spent more than $3.1 million on K Street services, including public relations and lobbying, according to disclosures filed to the Justice Department.
There are 14 firms registered with the Justice Department to work for the country, most of which are sub-contractors to two firms: Greenberg Traurig and Amsterdam & Partners.
The three firms working under Greenberg Traurig’s $1.7 million contract are the Daschle Group, founded by former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), Capitol Counsel and LB International Solutions. Greenberg Traurig has both former Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.) and former Rep. Albert Wynn (D-Md.) on the account. These contracts do not mention Gulen.
London-based firm Amsterdam & Partners is investigating Gulen and affiliated groups for Turkey and filing lawsuits against charter schools in the United States.
Robert Amsterdam says that public records and whistleblowers show the charter schools — which receive hundreds of millions in public funding — are bilking taxpayers, committing fraud on a massive scale and abusing students.
Gulenists “have a different worldview than they share,” he said, including a belief in Sharia law. “They use the money they steal from U.S. schools to expend their criminal activities to other countries.”
He’s working on a book and has filed a lawsuit against Harmony Public Schools, the largest chain of charter schools in Texas, which some say were inspired by Gulen or the Hizmet movement.
Leaders of the schools reject claims that they are connected to Gulen in any way and note that previous state and federal investigations into the schools did not result in sanctions.
“The government of Turkey is spending millions of dollars on lobbyists and publicists. Just because Registered Foreign Agents keep repeating these allegations, doesn’t make them true,” said Soner Tarim, a co-founder and chief executive officer of Harmony Public Schools, according to The Washington Post. “No one disputes our success of a 98 percent graduation rate and 100 percent college acceptance rate. It is time to look at the facts, not reprint false accusations.”
The political fight has also turned into a battle for business, and those tied to Turkey have been caught up in the firestorm.
Burson-Marsteller last week registered with the Justice Department to perform public relations work for Turkey in a $1.1 million contract. But from 2012 to 2015, the firm had worked for the Alliance for Shared Values, the group tied to Gulen.
Aslandogan claims Turkey threatened Burson-Marsteller’s parent company, saying that the contract with the Gulen group might cause trouble for its operations in Turkey. 
“Under pressure from their owner, they said they could not renew our agreement,” Aslandogan told The Hill in an interview prior to Burson’s disclosure of the registration.
Burson-Marsteller on Monday declined to comment when asked about the situation.
“Burson-Marsteller takes client confidentiality very seriously. As such, we do not disclose details about any client relationships, past or present,” a spokeswoman said in an email to The Hill.

US-Turkey Relations: Gulen's extradition remains a sticking point