Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who met with President Trump at the White House on Tuesday, will not be without friends in Washington this week. A band of high-powered lobbyists and consultants hired by Erdogan's government, including employees at firms belonging to former members of Congress, represents Turkey's interests in the capital.
According to forms filed with the Department of Justice in compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act, there are 14 active U.S. firms and individuals acting as agents on behalf of the Republic of Turkey, its embassy, or its Ministry of National Defense. DOJ disclosures show that many agents who have acted on behalf of Turkey's interests in recent years work for several prominent firms with ties to powerful former politicians.
The Gephardt Group, founded by former Democratic congressman Dick Gephardt, who served in the House of Representatives for nearly 30 years, including as the House Democratic leader for almost half that time, was hired by the Republic of Turkey for a period that spanned February of 2016 through December of 2016. For its services, the firm earned $1.7 million, according to a disclosure filed last year. The Gephardt Group then hired Capitol Counsel LLC for $32,000 a month as a subcontractor; the filing related to that contract is signed by former Republican congressman Jim McCrery, a partner at the firm.
The Gephardt Group subcontracted Greenberg Traurig LLP as well. Greenberg Traurig, in turn, subcontracted the services of Capitol Counsel and McCrery for the duration of 2017. On its website, Greenberg Traurig says its Washington D.C., office "is home to individuals who have served as members of the U.S. Congress, multiple ambassadors, U.S. Army Undersecretary," among others who served in powerful positions.
Greenberg Traurig also subcontracted the services of The Daschle Group, founded by former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who serves as the firm's CEO. The contract, signed by his son Nathan Daschle, spans 2017 and specifies that the group is set to earn a total of $432,000 for "[providing] strategic consulting services to the Republic of Turkey in connection with political and public policy issues before the United States Government impacting the Republic of Turkey's interests."
Amsterdam & Partners LLC, another firm hired by Turkey and its embassy, subcontracted the services of several additional firms, including Mercury, the firm that employed former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Manafort resigned from the campaign after the AP reported that Mercury had executed a lobbying effort on behalf of Ukraine's ruling party without properly disclosing the work. The Mercury FARA disclosure is signed by former Minnesota Republican congressman John Vin Weber.
Communications firm Burson-Marsteller entered into a contract with the Turkish Embassy on May 1. The company is set to earn $1.1 million for "[providing] integrated public relations services to support the Embassy's communications objectives in the United States" in 2017.
These FARA disclosures, available on the DOJ's website, reveal the extent of Turkey's efforts to sway Washington's elite class. Those efforts are worth keeping in mind as news of Trump's meeting with Erdogan is digested in the media.
It's also worth noting that Erdogan is leading an increasingly autocratic government, imperiling the country's democratic institutions in order to empower his regime.
Emily Jashinsky is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.