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By Harut Sassounian – Publisher, The California Courier

Several important developments have taken place since Vanity Fair magazine reported that a Turkish diplomat had talked about arranging for $500,000 in small, un-itemized contributions of less than $200 each to House Speaker Dennis Hastert in order to block a congressional resolution on the Armenian Genocide in Fall 2000.

A watchdog Group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government, filed a complaint on August 16 urging federal officials to investigate whether Speaker Hastert’s campaign did indeed illegally accept campaign contributions from foreign nationals.

According to Vanity Fair, the FBI had wiretapped several Turkish subjects or “targets” in the United States who had discussed arranging “for tens of thousands of dollars to be paid to Hastert’s campaign funds in small checks.”

Sibel Edmonds, a Turkish translator working for the FBI, was asked by her superiors to review more than 40 recorded conversations of “a senior official” at the Turkish Consulate in Chicago as well as members of the American-Turkish Council (ATC) and the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA) in Washington, D.C., according to Vanity Fair.

A spokesman for Speaker Hastert is quoted by Vanity Fair as saying that the Speaker has “no affiliation with ATC or other groups reportedly mentioned in the wiretaps. He does not know these organizations.” ATC and ATAA issued separate statements denying the allegations made in the Vanity Fair article.

By claiming that the Speaker “does not know these [Turkish] groups,” his spokesman is simply undermining Hastert’s credibility and giving credence to the allegations made against him. A quick search on google reveals that the spokesman’s assertions are contradicted by the following facts:

•The then President of ATC, Lincoln McCurdy, sent a letter to Hastert in September of 2000, urging him to block the pending congressional resolution on the Armenian Genocide;

•ATC paid for several trips to Turkey by the staff of the House Republican leadership;

•The Turkish-US Business Council (TUBC), the counterpart in Turkey of the American Turkish Council, reported on its web site that it hosted the Speaker of the House in Turkey in 2002 (he also visited Turkey in 1997 and 2004);

•The Turkish Daily News reported in its Feb. 5, 2005 issue that the TUBC “helped create a Turkish caucus in the U.S. Congress” and “lobbied successfully with U.S. lawmakers” to increase Turkey’s textile quotas and obtain the “rejection of the so-called Armenian genocide bill in the U.S. Congress;”

•Ercument Kilic, the then President of ATAA, wrote a letter to Hastert on July 20, 2004, to thank him for blocking yet another Armenian resolution in the House. Kilic called Hastert “a national leader and a great statesman.”

It would, therefore, be inconceivable that Speaker Hastert as well as his staff would be unaware of ATC and ATAA given these groups’ active involvement in various congressional issues for several years.

Back in October 23, 2000, the Turkish newspaper Sabah published an article that sounded too bizarre to be taken seriously at the time, but in the light of recent revelations, it now merits a second look. Sabah reported that in order to persuade Speaker Hastert to block the Armenian Genocide resolution, “the Chairman of AIPAC [The American Israel Public Affairs Committee] met with Hastert and explained to him ‘all the concerns in plain English.’” The AIPAC Chairman then reportedly pressured Hastert by telling him: “You may well gain a few more Armenian votes, but have you stopped to consider how many Jewish votes you will lose by this?”

Sabah further reported: “Another Jew had come down from Chicago and put the squeeze on Hastert because they had financed the Republicans to the tune of $10 million or more.” Hastert agreed to block the Armenian Genocide resolution on condition that Pres. Clinton make such a request in writing. Sabah reported that a “Jewish Turk from Istanbul” then contacted former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres who in turn persuaded Clinton to write the requested letter. Hastert used Clinton’s letter as a cover to pull the resolution from the House floor.

To set the record straight, once and for all, Speaker Hastert should itemize and make public all campaign contributions he has received under $200, even though he is not legally required to do so.

Hastert has twice reneged on his promise to allow the Armenian Genocide resolution to come to a vote on the House floor. As another such resolution is currently pending in the House, it remains to be seen whether the Speaker would once again prevent the congressmen from casting their votes on this issue? Or, would he again hide behind the President or some other official to cover up for his unexplained desire to cater to Turkish interests?

If the Speaker refuses to voluntarily disclose all of his campaign contributions, the citizens of this country must pressure him to do so by:

•Demanding that there be a joint Congressional hearing on his campaign funds (click on www.justacitizen.com and sign the petition calling for such a hearing);

•Making a contribution to the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition for a newspaper ad campaign concerning the Hastert allegations (click on www.nswbc.com);

•Making a contribution to the ACLU to support Sibel Edmonds’ petition to the Supreme Court; and

•Making a contribution to the ad campaign to have the Federal Election Commission investigate the Hastert campaign contributions (click on www.citizensforethics.org).

This issue is not a matter of Armenians vs. Turks. It has more to do with upholding the laws of the United States of America, starting with the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives!

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