Erdogan Hires his Cousin as Lobbyist To Obtain Votes of Turkish Americans
Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been President since 2014, is
planning to run for reelection in 2023. He previously served as Prime
Minister from 2003 to 2014. Before that, he was elected Mayor of
Istanbul in 1994 as a candidate from the Islamist Welfare Party.
However, he was forced out of office in 1998, banned from holding
political office, and imprisoned for four months after reciting a poem
which was viewed as an incitement to violence, religious or racial
hatred. Here is an ominous line from that poem: “The mosques are our
barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the
faithful our soldiers.” In 2001, he co-founded the Justice and
Development Party (AKP). Hence, Erdogan has been a continuous presence
at the highest echelons of Turkish government for almost 30 years.
Pres. Erdogan has now enlisted the help of his U.S.-based cousin, Dr.
Halil Mutlu, a citizen of Turkey, to obtain the votes of Turkish
citizens living in the United States during the 2023 presidential
election, to boost his slim chances for reelection.
According to the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) filings of the
U.S. Department of Justice, Dr. Mutlu registered as a political
lobbyist on May 11, 2022, on behalf of the Turkish ruling party (AKP)
in the United States, as its sole representative. Dr. Mutlu is a
resident of Windsor, Connecticut. The AKP representation office,
officially registered as a U.S. corporation on May 2, 2022, is
headquartered in Washington, D.C.
The FARA registration, signed by Mutlu, states that the “AK Party
representation to the United States represents the Justice and
Development Party of Turkey in the United States. Its responsibilities
include organizing political, social and cultural activities among the
Turkish citizens in the United States. It also aims to contribute to
furthering the cooperation and historical friendship between the
United States and Turkey….” The FARA registration form reveals the
true aim of this elaborate lobbying scheme: “It will also prepare and
disseminate AK Party material in the United States for the political
support of the Turkish citizens during elections.”
The FARA registration indicates that the U.S. office of AKP represents
the AKP’s principal office located at Pres. Erdogan’s presidential
palace in Cankaya, Ankara, Turkey. It is stated that AKP’s U.S. office
“does not have a budget established or a specified sum of money
allocated” to finance its activities. Dr. Mutlu is said to work
without any pay.
The completed FARA registration application also states that AKP’s
U.S. office will disseminate information through magazines,
newspapers, advertising campaigns, press releases, pamphlets, other
publications, lectures, speeches, radio and TV broadcasts, motion
picture films, letters, telegrams, email, websites, and social media.
The U.S. office of the AKP stated that it will publicize the above
mentioned information to public officials, civic groups, associations,
legislators, libraries, government agencies, educational groups,
newspapers, and nationality groups.
It is not credible that Dr. Mutlu will be able to carry out such an
enormous amount of work “on a part time basis,” without any staff and
without pay. I hope the U.S. Justice Department will keep a close eye
on the trail of funds used for such massive expenditures.
The Turkish government has permitted its citizens who live outside the
country to vote in domestic elections ever since 2014. The vote of
Turkish citizens in the Diaspora is important because around 1.5
million or over 50% of Turks residing abroad voted in the 2018
presidential election, including 811,000 in Germany, 186,000 in
France, 145,000 in the Netherlands, 60,000 in Austria, and 46,000 in
the United States. Erdogan received close to 60% of all votes cast
The U.S.-based AL-MONITOR news website, reported that “Turkish
opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu has explosively claimed that
millions of dollars have been siphoned off to allow President Recep
Tayyip Erdogan to flee the country if he loses the upcoming election….
Kilicdaroglu said the equivalent of $61 million was being transferred
‘all of a sudden,’ to the United States through education foundations
close to the President.” The New York-based Turken Foundation’s 2017
tax return shows that its assets were over $43 million. Erdogan’s two
children, son Bilal and daughter Esra, served on the Foundation’s
board. In 2014, Halil Mutlu was appointed chairman of the Turken
Foundation. He was also a board member of the Washington-based Turkish
American National Steering Committee, until his wife, Lynn Mutlu,
replaced him on the board.
It remains to be seen if Dr. Mutlu will be able to persuade a large
number of Turkish Americans to vote for Erdogan in next year’s
election. More importantly, should Erdogan not be reelected and stays
in Turkey, what legal troubles await him for violating a myriad of
Turkish laws for several decades.