As yet another example of the American political system falling under the influence of foreign actors it appears that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has borrowed a page from his friend Vladimir Putin’s playbook. Western intelligence agencies have identified a network of “non-governmental organizations” (NGOs) tied to Erdogan’s government that are establishing pro-Turkish political parties fielding candidates for local and national legislative seats in Europe and the United States. In the case of the U.S., Erdogan’s scheme also involves the U.S. Senate candidacy in Pennsylvania of Dr. Mehmet Oz, a dual Turkish-U.S. citizen who actually lives in New Jersey.
Oz’s campaign is linked to a lobbying office recently opened in Washington to facilitate dual U.S.-Turkish citizens voting for Erdogan in next year’s Turkish presidential election. Erdogan’s intelligence operation also involved recent French National Assembly candidates, including dual French-Turkish citizens Celil Yilmaz in Ain, Yalcin Ayvali in Rhône, and Ramazan Calli in Saône-et-Loire. All three French candidates are tied to the Strasbourg-based Council for Justice, Equality and Peace (COJEP), an arm of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP). COJEP’s activities are directed by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu, a co-founder of the AKP.
Other political influence operations by Erdogan have included the defunct Equality and Justice Party (PEJ), which ran scores of candidates in the 2017 French legislative election and dissolved last October. Two other French parties are also linked to Turkey, the Union of French Muslim Democrats (UDMF) and the Party of the Muslims of France (PMF). Erdogan’s government also has direct ties with the New Movement for the Future Party (NBZ) in Austria, the “Denk” (Think) party in the Netherlands, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (HOH) in Bulgaria, the Party of Friendship, Equality and Peace (DEB) in Greece, Be.one in Belgium, and the Alliance for Innovation and Justice in Germany.
The AKP lobbying office in Washington coordinating Oz’s Senate campaign was registered with the Justice Department, pursuant to the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), on May 11 of this year. The office is headed by Dr. Halil Mutlu, a resident of Connecticut and Erdogan’s cousin. The AKP’s FARA registration document on file with the Justice Department states: “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 . . . It will also prepare and disseminate AK Party material in the United States for the political support of the Turkish citizens during elections.” The registration document also states that the AKP’s principal office is located in Cankaya, Ankara, Turkey, which happens to be Erdogan’s luxuriant presidential palace.
Turkish opposition parties have charged that the New York-based Türken (Turkey Youth and Education Service) Foundation has laundered funds to pro-Turkish political candidates abroad. Erdogan’s daughter, Esra Albayrak, and son, Bilal Erdogan, sit on the Türken Foundation’s board. The foundation reportedly has $43 million in assets. According to Turkish opposition leader Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the head of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the funds for the Türken Foundation are laundered through two Turkish foundations, TÜRGEV and Ensar, run by Erdogan allies. In 2019, the Türken Foundation purchased an 81-acre estate along the St. Joseph River in southwest Michigan that had previously been owned by the late boxer Muhammad Ali. Another influential Turkish operation in the United States is the Turkish American National Steering Committee (TASC), on whose board Mutlu’s wife, Lynn Mutlu, currently sits as a member. Oz, whose Senate candidacy has been endorsed by Donald Trump, has been a frequent guest at TASC-sponsored events.
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
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Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist, author and nationally-distributed columnist. A member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the National Press Club. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).