By Harut Sassounian
Washington has long-suffered from unethical politicians, but the prize for the top hypocrite on an Armenian issue goes to former Cong. Richard Gephardt who served as House Majority Leader from 1989 to 1995 and Minority Leader from 1995 to 2003.
After championing the recognition of the Armenian Genocide for over two decades, Gephardt retired from the House of Representatives in 2005, and began enriching himself by lobbying against the very issue that he had staunchly defended in Congress!
Taking advantage of Turkish paranoia on the eve of the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide, the Gephardt Group Government Affairs expanded earlier this year its long-standing lobbying relationship with the Republic of Turkey. The new contract, worth $1.4 million per year, includes subcontractors Dickstein Shapiro ($531,000 per year), Greenberg Traurig ($314,000 per year), Lydia Borland ($180,000 per year), and Brian Forni ($78,000 per year). The Gephardt Group and its subcontractors agreed to provide the following services to Turkey:
“(a) Proposing and pursuing passage of legislation and other U.S. government action that promotes Turkey's interests and provides a positive image of Turks, Turkey and the United States-Turkey relationship,
(b) Preserving and enlarging the Congressional Caucus on Turkey and Turkish Americans,
(c) Educating members of Congress and the Administration on issues of importance to Turkey,
(d) Promptly notifying Turkey of any action in Congress or the Executive Branch on issues of importance to Turkey,
(e) Preparing brief analyses of developments in Congress and the Executive Branch on particular issues of concern to Turkey,
(f) Identifying official gatherings and social events to which [Turkish] Embassy personnel ought, in the Gephardt Group's opinion, attend, including to the extent possible, obtaining the necessary invitations,
(g) Identifying and/or arranging speaking engagements locally and nationally for [Turkish] Embassy personnel or their appointed or suggested proxies in fora that will improve Turkey’s image and advance its causes on Capitol Hill. Such would be, if so directed by Turkey, coordinated with Turkey's existing public relations service provider(s), and
(h) Maintaining and forging alliances with other interest groups whose goals are similar to or shared by Turkey.”
Significantly, subcontractor Greenberg Traurig’s responsibilities include: “develop and utilize contacts at the State and Defense Departments, and the National Security Council to convey the seriousness of the genocide issue and the potential threat it poses to the U.S./Turkey relationship.”
While there are plenty of sleazy lobbyists in Washington, none can match Gephardt’s shocking transformation from a leading supporter of Armenian Genocide recognition to a genocide denialist! The early years of Gephardt’s shameful flip-flop on this critical moral issue was revealed by The New Republic in its July 23, 2007 article titled, “K Street Cashes in on the 1915 Armenian Genocide.” Throughout his 26 years in Congress, Cong. Gephardt co-sponsored several genocide Resolutions and repeatedly spoke on the importance of recognizing the Armenian Genocide. In 2000, Gephardt and two other House Democrats co-signed a letter to then-Speaker Dennis Hastert urging him to schedule an immediate vote on the Armenian Genocide Resolution.
In January 2005, barely days after leaving his House seat, Gephardt opened his consulting and lobbying firm in Washington, D.C. From 2005 to 2009, he became a strategic adviser on government affairs for the international law firm of DLA Piper, which was paid $100,000 per month to represent the interests of Turkey, including lobbying against the pending House Resolution on the Armenian Genocide! The New Republic reported that Gephardt arranged meetings between members of the Turkish parliament and House Democratic leaders, helped Turkey’s U.S. Ambassador to gain an audience with "a skeptical Nancy Pelosi," and circulated a booklet titled “An Appeal to Reason,” that denied the Armenian Genocide.