BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
You were undoubtedly pleased over the last few weeks when you read about Los Angeles and Portland dropping disgusting Dick Gephardt, the former House Speaker and Genocide recognition advocate who sold his soul to Turkish government denialists in exchange for millions of dollars, as their lobbyist. This has cost disgusting Dick close to a million dollars.
This is the fruit of the ANCA’s (along with the Armenian Assembly and AYF on both coasts) efforts to educate and pressure clients of consulting companies/lobbyists that have contracts to lobby on behalf of Turkey. There are 180 companies that have been contacted, based on information that the dirty lobbyists have on their own websites. Some have responded, others have not. It turns out the lobbying firms keep the names of their clients posted on their websites even after a contract expires.
Clients were asked to require of their Turkish-government-representing consultants/lobbyists to terminate the relationship with Turkey. Failing that, they were asked to terminate their own relationship with the lobbyists. The lobbyists were also asked directly to terminate their Turkish relationship, and given one month to do. In the same letter, they were informed that if they did not act within a month, appropriate public information would be disseminated and actions taken. We’ve seen the early results.
This type of activity is extremely important to keeping the pressure on Turkey, and I have no doubt Azerbaijan’s turn must and will come. It falls in the realm of economic warfare. Over the last few months, I’ve mentioned such possibilities, pointing out what Turkey and Azerbaijan do from tourism fairs, to matching funds for marketing, to effectively hiring “scholars” who mask their paid (in one form or another) relationship with those two dictatorial states and write glowingly about opportunities there.
I am very glad to see our organizations were thinking, planning, and now acting in the same vein all along. We should also remember the beginnings of a “divest from Turkey” movement with the resolutions passed recently at University of California’s Berkeley and Los Angeles campuses.
But let’s return to the dirty lobbyists and their clients. Of the five consulting firms, three are of real interest—Dickstein Shapiro (Denny Hastert, another former House Speaker, works with this one), Gephardt, and Greenberg Traurig. The other two are less interesting, LBI, which has ONLY Turkey as a client, and Alpaytac which is a Turkish owned firm.
You might be surprised at who does business with them. Some are notably unsavory companies, so I do not expect much from them. But others, especially some that are involved in businesses that cater to average people, might be very sensitive to some negative public commentary.
In the automotive world, Chrysler, Honda, Enterprise Rental Car, Michelin, and the Tire Industry Association are clients of the three dirty lobbyists. How many hundreds, if not thousands, of Armenians own a Chrysler, Honda, or use Michelin tires? How many tire stores and car repair shops are owned by Armenians? Who hasn’t used Enterprise since they are usually relatively inexpensive to rent cars from? Imagine if we all went and told our dealers we’re NEVER going to buy their products again as long as they are (indirectly) supporting Turkish denialism? Imagine if our tire sales folks picked up the phone and complained to the leaders of their trade association about the relationship with Genocide deniers. Imagine if a frequent car renter told the agency, “no more” until you cut off the ties with deniers.
Boycotts work— think of the Montgomery bus boycott, the work of the extremist religious right wingers activities in the 1990s, and the anti-Apartheid divestment movement of the 1980s. Companies know this and will respond when the pressure level gets up to a point.
Other companies are familiar, household, names who would not want their reputations tarnished: Amazon.com, Annheuser-Busch, Bayer, Boeing, DirectTV, DISH Network, Fox Entertainment, General Electric, Intuit, Mastercard, PepsiCo, and more. In fact a simple letter expressing your concerns might be enough to move these very image-conscious companies. It may not even be necessary to resort to the harsher approach suggested in the previous paragraph.
With some effort, we can notch many successes. They’ll be more difficult to come by than Los Angeles and Portland since public agencies are accountable to the citizens while private companies are accountable to their owners (though there is slight progress in changing this conception).
Start drafting your letters. No doubt the call to action from the organizers of this effort will soon come. Get ready to relish the success of hitting Turkey on one of its vulnerabilities.