BY DEIDRE SHESGREEB
Gannett Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON—Since Rep. Jean Schmidt created a legal expense trust to help repay an improper gift she received from the Turkish Coalition of America, the Miami Township Republican has received a single $5,000 donation from a company called Global Eclipse.
The twist? The Delaware-registered company has significant Turkish ties.
The firm listed on Schmidt’s most recent fundraising disclosure form is described as a limited liability company with a mailing address in Princeton, N.J.
Schmidt spokesman Barrett J. Brunsman said he did not know what kind of company Global Eclipse is.
What kind of company is Global Eclipse? “I could not tell you that,” said Schmidt’s spokesman, Barrett J. Brunsman.
He emphasized that there was nothing illegal or untoward about the donation. “It’s an American company that meets all requirements to contribute to the legal expense trust,” Brunsman said.
The disclosure form, which Schmidt filed last week, says that Global Eclipse has four members. Three of Global Eclipse’s members have Turkish connections, and the other may have links to that country as well, although publicly available information about it is sparse.
Campaign finance watchdogs say that Global Eclipse’s donation is notable, given that Schmidt’s association with a Turkish-American group is what landed her in ethical hot water in the first place.
Schmidt set up her legal expense trust last year, after the House ethics committee ordered her to repay more than $400,000 in legal fees the Turkish coalition paid on her behalf. The Turkish coalition paid lawyers’ fees that Schmidt racked up in a court battle with David Krikorian, a political opponent who she sued after he falsely accused her of taking “blood money” from the Turkish government.
The ethics committee said the Turkish coalition’s move to pick up her legal tab amounted to an improper gift. The panel said that while she accepted the funds unwittingly, she still had to pay the money back.
So far, the only group that has lined up to help her pay off her debt is Global Eclipse.
“She’s someone whose positions appeal to (the Turkish Coalition), and at the very least some members of the Turkish community are still rewarding her for those positions,” said Bill Allison, editorial director of the Sunlight Foundation, a watchdog group that has researched the influence of foreign interests in American politics.
Brunsman said he was not sure how the contribution came about–whether Schmidt solicited the firm or its members donated unprompted.
“I can’t speak to this particular company but I can tell you the fact that she has established a legal expense trust is common knowledge,” Brunsman said.
The two most prominent members of Global Eclipse are: EA Havacilik, or EA Aerospace, a Turkish aviation investment firm; and Ekim Alptekin, the founder of EA Aerospace and an executive at Eclipse Aerospace, an aviation firm based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Alptekin founded EA Aerospace in 2009 to purchase, along with other private investors, Eclipse Aerospace, which had developed a jet plane called the Eclipse 500.
On its website, EA Aerospace is described as “the first Turkish company ever to make an industrial investment in the United States.” The company acts as “the sales office” for the Eclipse 500 aircraft “in a large area encompassing Europe, Russia, Turkey and Middle East,” the firm’s website says.
“The company also provides maintenance repair and upgrade services to Eclipse 500 owners at Europe’s first Eclipse Aerospace Platinum Service Center at stanbul’s Atat¼rk Airport,” according to the website.
Together, EA Havacilik and Alpetkin have about 41 percent profit interest in Global Eclipse.
Alptekin is a businessman with ties to an array of commercial and defense aviation interests in Turkey and the U.S.
In addition to his leadership roles at EA Aerospace and Eclipse Aerospace, where is he executive vice president for Europe, Alptekin is also a co-founder or board member of other Turkish aviation and defense companies, including Seabird Airlines and ATH Defense and Security Company, according to his biography on Eclipse Aerospace’s website.
“He is actively engaged in efforts to boost Transatlantic trade and bolster the commercial angle of decades-long Turkish-American partnership,” the bio says.
A receptionist at Eclipse Aerospace said Alptekin is based in Europe and she did not have a number for him. She provided an email address. But he did not respond to questions sent to that account.
The other two members of Global Eclipse are listed as Ugur Koyluoglu and Cenay Havacilik. Koyluoglu is a partner at Oliver Wyman, a global consulting firm where he works on banking issues.
Reached via email, Koyluoglu said he is an investor in Global Eclipse, not a manager. He did not respond to a request for the manager’s name and contact information.
Koyluoglu’s bio on Oliver Wyman’s website says he taught mathematics and engineering at Princeton and at Turkey’s Koc University before coming to the firm. He worked as Oliver Wyman’s market manager for Turkey from 1998 to 2010. He also appears to be the owner of the house in Princeton that Global Eclispe lists as its mailing address.
There is no publicly available information about Cenay Havacilik.
Brunsman said he did not know anything about either Koylouglu or Havacilik, adding that the trustee for Schmidt’s legal fund would have been the one to review information about any donors.
“I don’t think there’s any mystery that she seems to be supported by Turkish-Americans,” said Jan Baran, a lawyer who specializes in campaign finance and ethics issues. He said this donation seems to reaffirm that, but added, “it’s not unethical or illegal for Turkish-Americans to support her legal defense fund.”