Turkey paid nearly $9 million to lobbying firms in U.S. in 2018

(Updated to correct error in figures in the first paragraph)

Of the nearly $9 million Turkey spent on lobbying in the United States last year, nearly $4 million was paid to 14 firms for activities in a period ending in the first half of the year, journalist Yılmaz Polat reported for the Tele1 news site, quoting figures from a Department of Justice Report.

The Turkish government spent over $6.59 million throughout 2018, while non-government Turkish principals spent $2.3 million, lobbying watchdog site Open Secrets reported.

Fourteen firms were cited as working on behalf of Turkey in the first half of 2018, and of these, international law firm Greenberg Traurig received the largest single payment of $850,000, while the Ballard Partners law firm received two separate payments of $750,000 and $765,611.

The report refers to filings under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires individuals or firms acting on behalf of foreign principals to periodically disclose details of their relationship.

The firm of lawyer Robert Amsterdam, who has been running a high-profile lobbying campaign demanding legal action against Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen, received $300,000 in the six months up to April 30, 2018, the report said.

Members of Gülen’s religious movement are widely thought to have orchestrated the July 2016 coup attempt. Amsterdam’s law firm has produced a book, “Empire of Deceit”, that includes evidence that educational institutions linked to the group have committed fraud to receive U.S. government funding and used the proceeds for extensive lobbying activities in the United States.

The rival lobbying by Gülenists and firms hired by the Turkish government has covered numerous times by U.S. press outlets. Both sides have hired lobbyists with connections to U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration and to Vice President Mike Pence, journalist Claire Sadar reported last year.

Chief among Ankara's priorities in its lobbying efforts is to secure the return of Gülen, who has lived in Pennsylvania since 1999. 

The fallout of Turkey’s lobbying efforts through Michael Flynn, who briefly served as Trump’s national security adviser, is still ongoing. Flynn resigned in February 2017, weeks after he was appointed to the role, when his communications with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak came under scrutiny.

The retired general was discovered in the ensuing investigation to have accepted $500,000 to act on Turkey's behalf the previous year.

Flynn did not declare this engagement, breaking the FARA laws and earning his business partners charges for illegal lobbying.

The $8.89 million spent in 2018, cited by Open Secrets, is a significant amount, but is far off the expenditure on lobbying from the leading foreign principals that year.

The government of Saudi Arabia spent over $34 million lobbying in the United States in 2018, while a further $2.6 million was spent by non-government Saudi principals, according Open Secrets.


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