LOS ANGELES—The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region welcomed public statements and letters from City of Los Angeles Councilmembers, Los Angeles County Supervisors, California State Senator Anthony Portantino, and Glendale City Councilmember Ardy Kassakhian calling on Mercury Public Affairs to end its association with the Republic of Turkey.
“We thank our local and state officials for taking a decisive stand against collusion and complicity in Turkey’s genocidal agenda,” remarked Chair of the ANCA-WR Board of Directors Nora Hovsepian, Esq. “Any attempt to clean up Turkey’s image and cover up its human rights abuses is highly unethical and any affiliation with the Turkish state must be ended immediately. We call on Mercury Public Affairs to show good faith by donating its $250,000 quarterly retainer to the Armenia Fund to help rescue victims of Turkey’s aggression.”
Mercury Public Affairs, a public strategy firm, represents numerous high profile clients across business, politics, and civil society including Microsoft, American Airlines, Starbucks, Comcast, Charter Cable, SoCalGas, and Grubhub amongst others. They also render strategic, political and public affairs services to the Republic of Turkey, complicit in whitewashing the myriad human rights abuses perpetrated by the genocidal Erdogan regime.
In February 2020, Mercury signed a contract with Turkey’s Embassy in Washington D.C. to the tune of one million dollars.
Mercury has a long history of working with not only the Turkish government but its many proxies. Mercury has rendered services to the American-Turkish Council Turkish-American Business Council (TAIK) – headed by close ally of Turkish President Erdogan, Mehmet Yalcindag. Last year, Foreign Agent Registration Act filings show Mercury contacted over 150 Congressional offices on behalf of TAIK to set up meetings for Turkish Economy Minister Berat Albayrak – who also happens to be President Erdogan’s son-in-law.
The Los Angeles City Council letter to Mercury, signed by all 15 councilmembers, noted the acute outrage given Turkey’s overt support for Azerbaijan’s genocidal war against Armenia and Artsakh, including its transferring of Syrian jihadist mercenaries to fight for Azerbaijan, its sale of drones and other offensive military technology to Azerbaijan in the lead-up to Azerbaijan’s aggression, and its deployment of U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets to provide aerial cover for Azerbaijan’s targeting of civilian populations. The statement reads in part as follows:
Our outrage is particularly acute right now, because the military forces of Azerbaijan have launched a full scale surprise attack against the ethnically Armenian people of the Republic of Artsakh. That ongoing aggression was fully orchestrated with your client, the Republic of Turkey, which has transferred thousands of extremist Jihadist militants from the battlefields of Syria and Libya into the Caucasus to support the slaughter of Armenians. Azerbaijan continues to rain death and destruction on the cities and towns of Artsakh with sophisticated weaponry, much of which it has acquired from your client Turkey, indiscriminately killing scores of civilians. They have targeted churches, schools and even hospitals, far from any military operation.
Turkey and Azerbaijan consider themselves “two states, one nation,” and between them lies Armenia and Artsakh. Both Turkey and Azerbaijan have dramatically more population, more wealth, and more armaments than Armenia and Artsakh combined. For many years, the dictator of Azerbaijan has stated his intent to eliminate Armenians from the region completely, and this attack, with the full support of your client, seems to be his effort to achieve that murderous goal. So Armenians around the world understand that this unprovoked invasion is nothing less than a continuation of the Armenian Genocide – which, of course, was perpetrated, and is still actively denied, by your client.
These calls were echoed by California State Senator Anthony Portantino, who in a letter directed to a partner at Mercury Public Affairs noted: “It is untenable that Mercury would be employed in Washington to smooth over these inexcusable actions by two aggressive countries towards the peaceful Armenian people. Mercury should not take money from a Government with a 120-year history of Genocide, death, and destruction on its hands.”
Los Angeles County Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Hilda Solis, both of whom represent large Armenian communities, reaffirmed these points in their letter to Mercury, noting: In concert with Turkey, Azerbaijan has also conducted a robust misinformation campaign to deflect their egregious activities. The letter also noted that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors earlier this month unanimously adopted a joint motion supporting United States House Resolution 1165; a bipartisan resolution authored by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14) condemning Azerbaijan’s attacks on Armenia and Artsakh and the gross misinformation spread by Azerbaijan and Turkey, in addition to calling for the United States to end its military assistance and impose sanctions on Turkey and Azerbaijan.
Glendale City Councilmember Ardashes Kassakhian, in a strongly worded statement condemning Turkey and Azerbaijan’s egregious human rights abuses and attempted continuation of the Armenian genocide, remarked: If these firms wish to do some good and with their resources, they will terminate their contracts with these regimes and focus their work on strengthening the cause of democracy at home and abroad. As US citizens, we must demand that companies that do business in our State and in our country put American principles ahead of making a profit instead of selling themselves to the highest bidder. I urge all public officials – past and present – affiliated with the aforementioned groups to denounce their association with firms who hold contracts with the Republics of Turkey and Azerbaijan.
In response to public pressure, former Senator Barbara Boxer and former Los Angeles City Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, both of whom enjoyed positive relationships with the Armenian-American community while in elected office but are now partners at Mercury’s Los Angeles office, issued remarks indicating their support for Armenia.
Boxer’s comment noted that she will “always stand with Armenia,” while Villaraigosa condemned Azerbaijan’s aggression against Artsakh – noting that as mayor he met with Artsakh’s president in Los Angeles. Despite this, Villaraigosa visited Turkey’s proxy Azerbaijan in 2014 after leaving office, where he described the country as a “model nation” and a “force for peace.” In comments provided to Asbarez in 2018, Villaraigosa walked back his previous remarks noting that “since then, I’ve had an opportunity to confer with human rights organizations who have chronicled Azerbaijan’s human rights record as one of the world’s worst. I condemn the invasion of Nagorno-Karabakh by Azerbaijan and am resolute in my support for a free and Democratic Artsakh.”
Both statements, however, fell short of condemning Turkey for its direct military involvement in Azerbaijan’s genocidal war, and failed to call on Mercury to end its association with the Turkish government.
“At a minimum, the Armenian-American community expects those former elected officials who were once proud to stand alongside the Armenian community to use their positions within Mercury Public Affairs to compel the company to terminate its business with the Turkish government,” remarked Nora Hovsepian.
The calls for Mercury to drop Turkeys’ government as a client follows crucial blows to Turkey and Azerbaijan’s foreign lobbying machine. On October 13th, The Livingston Group terminated its registration as a foreign agent of Azerbaijan, and on October 16th DLA Piper terminated its contract with Azerbaijan’s state-owned rail transport operator. The DLA Piper contract related directly to Azerbaijan’s transport of oil – used to fund its regional aggression – and its efforts to bypass U.S. sanctions on Iran.
The Turkish government and its proxies have for years sought to enforce a gag-rule over United States human rights policy through its insidious attempts to deny the Armenian genocide, as well as its flagrant disregard for democratic values. This was seen on full display when during a visit by Turkish President Erdogan to the United States, his bodyguards attacked peaceful protesters who were exercising their first amendment rights to free speech in condemning the Turkish government’s human rights abuses.
In failing to drop Turkey as a client, Mercury Public Affairs is not only complicit in enabling Turkey’s malign influence in U.S. affairs, but has clearly endorsed the genocidal actions of Turkey and its proxy Azerbaijan.
Having conveyed to Mercury the full extent of Turkey and Azerbaijan’s egregious track record on human rights, it is imperative that Mercury take all necessary steps to end its association with Turkey lest it seeks to continue its endorsement of the genocidal governments it currently represents. The ANCA-WR also strongly urges Mercury’s high profile clients to note their discontent with Mercury’s unethical affiliation with Turkey, to themselves avoid complicity in supporting a company profiteering off the perpetration and denial of genocide.
The ANCA-WR will vigorously continue its efforts to gain the support and solidarity of elected officials to pressure Mercury and other entities who profit from the genocidal regimes of Turkey and Azerbaijan to put human rights first by dropping them as clients and quashing the voices of their paid lobbyists and false propaganda. It’s time for America and American companies to stop these authoritarian regimes and dictators from having any influence over U.S. policy.
The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region is the largest and most influential nonpartisan Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues in pursuit of the Armenian Cause.