LOS ANGELES—With less than three weeks left to the Los Angeles City Council run-off elections between Paul Krekorian and Christine Essel, Asbarez has obtained an email from a leading Azeri lobbyist asking for support and donations for the Essel campaign.
Jason Katz, who is the principal of The Tool Shed Group, a strategic communications, business development and public affairs company, has received $35,000 to lobby for the government of Azerbaijan and shows the Consulate General of Azerbaijan as a client in documents filed in the US Justice Department.
In his Nov. 13 email, which is signed by him and clearly states his affiliation with The Tool Shed Group, Katz urges recipients to contribute to the Essel campaign.
“I can tell you with no reservation that Chris Essel understands the needs of the business community and the public and navigates these communities and issues, often at odds with one another, with a smart, fair and pragmatic approach,” said Katz in his email.
“I can also tell you from direct and personal experience that none of these things can be said of her opponent in this race,” added Katz.
This past February, Katz drafted a letter, which was circulated to California State Assembly and Senate members and signed by only one member, expressing sympathy to Azeri president Ilham Aliyev for “the victims of the Khojali tragedy.” Azerbaijan claims Armenian soldiers massacred Azeri citizens in Khojaly during its war in the early 90s against the newly independent Armenian Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Essel’s opponent Assemblyman Paul Krekorian worked to prevent legislators from signing the Azeri letter by alerting his colleagues about the falsehoods contained in it. The lone signatory, Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, by Fuentes was hailed by the Azeri Consulate as a hero and victory for Azerbiajan.
In October, Katz authored an opinion piece in Turkey’s Today’s Zaman, in which he painted Armenia as an aggressor and called on the US to focus its alliances with Turkey and Azerbaijan.
Last month, Essel issued an appeal to the Armenian-American community after the Azeri press reported that she attended a fund-raiser by “Turkic-Americans.”
“While it is true that I was a guest at a gathering hosted by a Turkish-American, my stance on the Armenian Genocide is unwavering. It is, and always has been, my position that the genocide of the Armenians from 1915 to 1918, like other atrocities, must be recognized as historical fact,” Essel said in her appeal.
On October 17, LA-based millionaire and Turkish community leader Mike Mustafoglu and his wife, Demetra George hosted a champagne brunch at their Beverly Hills home. News reports following the event indicated that it was sponsored by a “Pax Turcica,” an umbrella organization for Turkish groups that includes the Assembly of Turkish-American Associations, the Azerbaijani-American Council and Turkish Coalition of America, among others.
An invitation letter authored by Dr. Javid Huseynov of Pax Turcica read: “Turkic-American support for Chris Essel is of greatest importance, especially due to her runoff election against Assemblyman Paul Krekorian.”
“As a community, we must stand up in support of Chris Essel and not let the ethnophobic policies poison the Los Angeles City Council,” continued Huseynov in his letter, at the end of which he urges individuals who could not attend the event to contribute to Essel’s campaign.
Essel’s campaign manager Tom Berman stressed to Asbarez at the time that the event was a campaign “meet and greet,” adding that there were no funds raised at the event. At press time, Breman had not returned our request for a comment on this matter.
During a meeting with Armenian-American community leaders earlier this month, Essel was asked to return any donations she may have received from Turkish or Azeri Americans.
The most recent financial report filed by the Essel camp showed the receipt of donations from – Ergun Kirkolavi, president of the Assembly of Turkish American Associations, as well as from Katz and his wife.