WASHINGTON, DC—A 70-page Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) report dealing with “concerted, possibly criminal, efforts” by pro-Azerbaijani interests to secretly fund Congressional participation in an extravagant Baku conference should be released by the leadership of the U.S. House Ethics Committee, according to the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
In a letter sent earlier this week to Chairman Charles Dent (R-PA) and Ranking Member Linda Sanchez (D-CA) of this panel, ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian called for the release of the findings “in the interests of government transparency and the rights of a fully informed electorate.” He stressed: “The Committee should not withhold from American citizens any information involving foreign attempts to manipulate our democratic system or that, in the Committee’s own words, reveals ‘evidence of concerted, possibly criminal, efforts’ by any party – foreign or domestic – seeking any manner of undue influence with U.S. policymakers.”
The ANCA is encouraging supporters of transparency in governance to call the House Ethics Committee at (202) 225-7103 to urge it to release the 70-page OCE findings.
The House Ethics Committee, earlier this week, cleared 10 U.S. Representatives and over 30 Congressional staff who had been under investigation for allegedly accepting illegal foreign funding to participate in a 2013 conference, funded by the State oil company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR): “U.S.-Azerbaijan Convention: Vision for the Future.” The Committee found that the Members had not knowingly violated the law, since the nominal funders of the trip – the Assembly of the Friends of Azerbaijan (AFAZ) and groups associated with the Turkic American Association (TAA) – had apparently concealed from the Congress the fact that SOCAR was, in reality, the true source of the junkets’ financing. The House Ethics Committee has referred the case to the Department of Justice, but refused to release the OCE findings. The OCE, an independent, non-partisan entity charged with reviewing and, as appropriate, referring allegations of Congressional misconduct to the Ethics Committee, typically have their findings released to the public after the investigation is concluded. By all accounts, an exception has been made in this instance.
The controversy surrounding foreign funding of the Azerbaijan trips first came to light on July, 2014, in an in-depth article published by the Houston Chronicle, which prompted the Ethics Committee to begin review of the matter. That initial piece is available here.
The Washington Post, in May of this year, first revealed the existence of the OCE report in a major investigative article titled, “10 Members of Congress Took Trip Secretly Funded by Foreign Government”, and available here.
Earlier this week, after the House Ethics Committee report was released, the Center for Responsible Politics published an in-depth article spotlighting donations by supporters of the Turkic American Alliance to Chairman Dent, titled “Ethics Chair Received Contributions from Donors Linked to Groups in Azerbaijan Probe,” and available here.
The full text of the ANCA letter is provided below.
August 3, 2015
The Honorable Charles W. Dent
The Honorable Linda T. Sanchez
Committee on Ethics
U.S. House of Representatives
1015 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Dent and Ranking Member Sanchez:
Thank you for your leadership of the Committee on Ethics and your service to the U.S. House of Representatives and the American people.
I am writing, in the wake of the Committee’s recent release of its report on officially connected travel by House Members to Azerbaijan in 2013, to formally communicate our request that the Ethics Committee publicly release the findings of the Office of Congressional Ethics regarding the “U.S.-Azerbaijan Convention: Vision for the Future.” We make this request in the interests of government transparency and the rights of a fully informed electorate.
The Committee should not to withhold from American citizens any information involving foreign attempts to manipulate our democratic system or that, in the Committee’s own words, reveals “evidence of concerted, possibly criminal, efforts” by any party – foreign or domestic – seeking any manner of undue influence with U.S. policymakers.
Thank you for your consideration of our request. We are available to meet with you in person or to field any questions on this matter.
Kenneth V. Hachikian
cc: Co-Chairman David Skaggs and Staff Director/Chief Counsel Omar Ashmawy, Office of Congressional Ethics