Justice Dept. Records Reveal: Azerbaijan Pays Millions to U.S. Firms

Harut Sassounian

BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN

Awash in billions of petrodollars, but lacking a moral compass, Azerbaijan has been busy handing out loads of money to anyone who is willing to heed its propaganda.

Baku’s bribery scheme, known worldwide as “caviar diplomacy,” has now ensnared Washington’s movers and shakers. Apparently, there is no shortage of Americans who are eager to sell their souls for a fistful of dollars. As a novice in the field of lobbying, Azerbaijan has quickly learned the tricks of the trade from its ‘elder brother’ Turkey, a well-versed master of political deception.

The website of the U.S. Dept. of Justice lists the names and amounts paid by various Azeri entities to 11 American firms:

– Azerbaijan’s Embassy in Washington pays $35,000 per month to Patton Boggs “for advice and assistance on U.S.-Azerbaijan bilateral relations”; $18,250 per month to Melwood Communications to assist in “media relations and communications strategy”; $20,000 per month to the DCI Group for “public relations and media outreach, and building relationships with think tanks”; and $45,000 per month to The Podesta Group to carry out public relations.

– The Livingston Group, named after former House Speaker Bob Livingston, who left public office in disgrace, has so far received close to $2 million for lobbying on behalf of Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry.

– The International Bank of Azerbaijan pays Jefferson Waterman International (JWI) $25,000 per month “to develop relations with American institutions” and “media relations strategy.” JWI receives another $25,000 per month from “The Presidency of Azerbaijan” for counseling on media strategy. Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Finance owns 51% of the shares of the International Bank of Azerbaijan.

– The Azerbaijan America Alliance has so far paid Fabiani & Company $2.4 million “for planning and executing strategies to encourage research and advocacy about the Azeri people, country, culture and international relations.” A recent gala dinner in Washington, hosted by the Azerbaijan America Alliance, was attended by 700 guests, including Obama administration officials, members of congress, and foreign diplomats. Notorious congressional opponents of Armenian issues attended the banquet, including Senators Saxby Chambliss and Richard Burr, House Speaker John Boehner and former Cong. Dan Burton.

– Roberti White LLC is paid $20,834 per month by SOCAR USA, the American subsidiary of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan, to explore business opportunities in the United States.

– Since money is no object, even the Consulate General of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles can afford to hire its own public relations firm. Over the years, it has engaged the services of Sitrick and Company ($50,000 per year); The Toolshed Group LLC ($35,000), founded by Jason Katz, former Director of Public Affairs for the American Jewish Committee; and The Potomac Square Group (amount undisclosed) “to provide media outreach…and interaction with editors.”

Now comes yet another ex-congressman who is chasing Azerbaijan’s Almighty Dollar! Former New York Cong. Michael McMahon is handling public affairs/government relations for the so-called “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” a territory recognized only by its occupying power – Turkey! McMahon, who served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee until his defeat in 2010, is leading the lobbying effort on behalf of Herrick, Feinstein LLP of New York which won a $200,000 per year contract to arrange congressional visits to occupied Northern Cyprus and improve its public image in the media. McMahon also handled the development and construction of Turkey’s expanded Consulate in New York City.

It is, therefore, not surprising that McMahon’s name surfaced last week, trying to legitimize Pres. Ilham Aliyev’s falsified re-election in which he gained 85% of the vote, while his nine opponents collectively received the remaining 15%!

While international observers criticized Aliyev’s re-election as “unfair and rife with fraud,” The New York Times quoted McMahon as stating that the vote was “honest, fair and really efficient. There were much shorter lines than in America, and no hanging chads,” a reference to the disputed ballots in Florida during the 2000 U.S. presidential race.

Shockingly, The N.Y. Times fell victim to McMahon’s ploy, deciding to title its article on the fraudulent vote as “Observers Differ on Fairness of Election in Azerbaijan.” The Times thus equated one man’s pro-Azeri propaganda with the overwhelming evidence of widespread fraud confirmed by respectable international observers, such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Fortunately, The Times pointed out that “the split in assessments seemed to reflect an aggressive lobbying effort by the Aliyev government to portray the election as fair.”

Armenian-Americans cannot compete with Azerbaijan’s lavish handouts. They don’t have to. Since the truth is on their side, they do not need to spend millions on lobbying to present the facts as they are!

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16 Comments

  1. Ed said:

    I agree! Diaspora should help to built roads and schools in Karabakh and Armenia. Beside this Diaspora should not stop voicing healthy criticism to injustices and abuse of power by officials in Armenia.

    Armenian needs tourism – this includes less expensive flights and payable hotels, and the public transportation system is more than uncivilized one , Armenian needs healthy environment for business, E.g. unfortunately still tourists visiting Armenia see a lot of garbage and unfinished buildings in the countrysides across the country …

  2. The Truth said:

    If we could build a better Armenia we would have not find it necessary to spend so much energy and time to deal with the stupid actions of Turkey and Azerbaijan Khanat

  3. Tsayt said:

    Mr. Sassounian your last paragraph is wrong in so many ways that perfectly describes our shortcomings. The truth may be, is indeed, on our side but without money and aggressive lobbying the truth will be only yours, and the opposite side will have their own “truth”,with so many “believers”, albeit manufactured. Let’s stop being naïve, again and again…and again.

  4. Saaten Maagar said:

    Armenians can not match the Azeris lavish handouts but can they at least help to strengthen Artsakh so that what was won by blood and a very high cost does not turn out to be all for nothing. It is a shame the amount of help that the diaspora has given to Artsakh, and please do not tell me that they will steal the money, excuses are for idiots. Yes there are a lot of crooks in the old country that is the way it is, if you want to help there are all kinds of ways not to involve the crooks.

  5. Karim said:

    If the truth is on your side, why do you then have ANCA and all the fundraising and grass-root campaigns? If you so trust in the truth, let the Congress do its business without ANCA’s help? So what you can lobby but we cannot? The truth is on your side? What truth? What does SOCAR company spending money on US business opportunity identification have to do with any truth dealing with Armenia? Unless you are reflexively opposed to everything and anything that has anything to do with Azerbaijan … And the degree of ignorance … Not every lobbying dollar Azerbaijan has to spend in the US have something to do with Armenia.

  6. GeorgeMardig said:

    Azerbaijan’s Aliyev instead of taking care of his people and fight ignorance, he’s spending Gas and Oil revenues stupidly, when will arrive the Azeri spring to Azerbaijanis, are the Azeri people sleeping?

    • Edward Demian said:

      I believe that when the last petro-dollar is spent or stollen, them the Aliev clan will move to France or Duba. Than the Azery’s will be free to elect a democratic president to lead them. Too bad though, they will be as poor as the Armenians by then. Geneticists say that the Azery’s are Genetically more like the Armenians than anyone else. So why are they so docile? Armenian politics may be corrupt, so is every one elses.
      Since the Azerys and the Turks are trying to choke the life out of Armenia through their oil and trade embargoes and by other means. Why don’t we do the same. Let’s divert every drop of water than might be wasted over the border on the Azerys and the Turks, and sell it ti Iran. Parts of northern Iran is arrid and they would pay for water just like we pay for oil.

  7. GB said:

    When the time of Sultan of Axerbaijan expired, White House administration team will eliminate him with the help of Russian mafia gangs!!

  8. IR said:

    Be sure if US & Iran come to an agreement and solve there main problems, Nationalist Iranian Mullahs in Teheran (first national interest than Islam) will take care of Axerbaijani Sultanat. The rulers in Baku were hopping that US or Israel will bomb and turn IR to a second Libya or Syria and so on …

  9. FromWarsaw said:

    Pathetic and chauvinistic, are the only two word that come to mind while going through remarks of the Armenian readers. What is it with you people? Why is it OK for your diaspora to have had deceived the U.S. public opinion for decades and it is so “wrong” for Azerbaijan to rightfully promote itself as a stalwart ally and reliable partner of the U.S.

    Instead, you all should start caring about Armenia – your ravished homeland, foreign outpost, symbol of destitute…

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