Turkish-American Groups Contributed $2.2 Million to Politicians Since 2007
By Harut Sassounian
I came across a Turkish-American website, “tenthousandturks.org,” which is described as: “Ten Thousand Turks Campaign.”
The website includes the combined information of five separate Turkish-American political action committees (PACs): 1) Turkish Coalition USA Political Action Committee (TC-USA PAC); 2) Turkish Coalition California Political Action Committee (TC-CAL PAC); 3) National Coalition of Turkish American Lawyers Political Action Committee, (NC-TAL PAC); 4) National Coalition of Turkish American Women Political Action Committee (NC-TAW PAC); 5) Turkish American Political Action Committee (TURKISH PAC-TX).
The website states that the “Ten Thousand Turks Campaign,” was launched on April 29, 2010. It is “dedicated to reaching out to over 10,000 Turkish-Americans and friends of Turkey willing to take a stand to support candidates that understand the value of positive U.S.-Turkish relations.” This coalition of PACs has adopted the impossible task of fostering “positive U.S.-Turkish relations.” The leader of Turkey, Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has done a great job of undermining U.S.-Turkish relations as well as Turkey’s relations with many other countries. I suggest that instead of wasting their hard earned money, Turkish-Americans get rid of Erdogan which will immediately improve U.S.-Turkish relations.
The group’s website claims that the five Turkish PACs combined have raised a total of $2,152,849 from 2007 to 2020 for U.S. political candidates. Interestingly, the amount of contributions they have received has declined precipitously from a high of $510,765 in 2015-16 to a low of $202,640 in 2019-20. This may indicate that Turkish-Americans are not as hopeful about improving U.S.-Turkish relations by contributing to political campaigns. The website does not explain how the group was able to raise money in 2007 to 2009 before it was formed in 2010.
The Turkish website also provides the amount of money raised by each of the five PACs in the 2019-20 election cycle: TC-USA PAC ($57,500); TC-TAW PAC ($37,750); TC-CAL PAC ($44,490); TC-MIDWEST PAC ($35,800); and TURKISH PAC-TX ($27,000). Some of the groups have changed their names over the years.
Here is additional information regarding each of the five groups:
1) TC-USA PAC: This group’s fundraising declined from $231,950 in 2009-10 to $57,500 in 2019-20. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C. G. Lincoln McCurdy is the Treasurer and Louette Ragusa is the Custodian of Records.
2) TC-CAL PAC: This group’s fundraising declined from t$64,400 in 2015-16 to $44,490 in 2019-20. It is headquartered in Long Beach, California. Maria Cakiraga is the Treasurer and Yelda Bartlett is the Northern California Representative.
3) NC-TAL PAC: No fundraising information is available on its own website. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C. The PAC’s Officers & Executive Committee Members are: Doreen Edelman, President; Robert Levent Herguner, Treasurer; Aylin Acikalin; Zeliha Arslan; Yelda Bartlett; and Lawrence Cenk Laws.
4) NC-TAW PAC: No fundraising information is available on its website. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C. Tuba Firincioglu is the Treasurer and Louette Ragusa is the Custodian of Records. Louette holds the same position with the TC-USA PAC. The website claims that there are nationwide 11 Turkish elected officials in city and local governments and none at state or federal levels.
5) Turkish PAC-TX: No fundraising information is available on its website and no executives are named. The group is headquartered in Houston, Texas.
The “tenthousandturks.org” website provides the following additional details: “In the 2019-2020 election cycle, the PACs contributed to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), Congressional Black Caucus PAC (CBC PAC), and Bold PAC (Congressional Hispanic PAC).
“The PACs also contributed to three U.S. senators, 61 candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives, and 10 candidates for state or local races. The percentage of wins was 100% for the Senate, 98% for the House, and 50% for state and local offices. Further, the PACs were instrumental in rallying support for the 11 Turkish Americans running for public office in 2020, the largest number ever, and the three spouses of Turkish Americans for a total of 14 candidates.
“Notable successes by the PACs in the 2019-2020 election cycle were the following:
“(1) The comeback of Cong. Pete Sessions, the former Turkey Caucus Co-Chair, in winning Texas’s 17th congressional district after his loss in 2018 when he represented the 32nd district;
“(2) The election of Farrah Khan, a popular friend of Turkish Americans in southern California, as the Mayor of Irvine, California;
“(3) The election of Turkish American Aycha Sawa as the City Comptroller for Milwaukee, Wisconsin;
“(4) The reelection of Turkish American Tayfun Selen as a Freeholder (County Commissioner) of the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders (County Commissioners) in New Jersey;
“(5) The reelection of Ben Bartlett, spouse of Turkish American Yelda Bartlett, as a City Council Member in Berkeley, California; and
“(6) The election of Leah Ersoylu, spouse of Turkish American Sarp Ersoylu, as a Trustee of the Newport Mesa United School District in Orange County, California.”
Naturally, Turkish-Americans have the right to contribute to political campaigns in the United States like any other American. The only issue is that they are using their political outreach to spread lies about the Armenian Genocide. Their political fundraising website is full of disinformation about the Genocide committed by Ottoman Turkey against Armenians. This is something Armenian-Americans need to counter with their own “One Million Armenians Campaign.”