Sunday, 17 July, 2016 – 14:15
Newly-released email and lobbying documents filed with Congress reveals new ties between Clintonworld and members of a network operated by leader of Islamic sect Fetullah Gulen
In addition to muddying that complex geopolitical dynamic, a 2009 email recently released by Judicial Watch provides yet another example of access being provided to a Clinton campaign and Clinton Foundation donor.
In the April 1, 2009 message, a Gulen follower named Gokhan Ozkok asked Clinton deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin for help in connecting one of his allies to President Obama.
Ozkok is founding board member of the Turkish Cultural Center and part of a network of businesses and non-profits affiliated with the Gulen movement, also known as Hizmet.
Ozkok served as national finance co-chair of the pro-Clinton Ready PAC. He gave $10,000 to the committee in 2014 and $2,700 to Clinton’s campaign last year. He is also listed on the Turkish Cultural Center’s website as a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, one of the non-profit arms of the Clinton Foundation. He’s given between $25,000 and $50,000 to the Clinton charity.
Another link between Gulenists and the Clinton orbit was revealed in a lobbying registration disclosure filed last month with the Senate. It shows that a Gulen-aligned group called the Alliance for Shared Values hired the Clinton-connected Podesta Group to lobby Congress on its behalf. The group seeks to lobby for the “promotion of peace, tolerance and interfaith dialogue.”
The group’s executive director is Alp Aslandogan, a former professor at universities in Texas. He has also donated to Clinton’s political endeavors, campaign finance records show.
The Podesta Group is a natural choice for those seeking influence with Clinton. The firm was co-founded by John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, and his brother Tony, a major Clinton campaign bundler.
Through various non-profit groups, both Gulenists promote the cleric’s teachings, which are relatively moderate and pro-Western. They are also involved in the Gulen movement’s money-making endeavor: a vast network of taxpayer-funded charter schools.
Those schools, which number more than 150, have been a source of controversy for the Gulen movement.
Federal investigators have reportedly investigated some of the schools for using work visas to bring Turkish citizens to the U.S. to teach. In some cases, taxpayer funds were used to pay immigration and legal fees for family members of teachers who worked at the facilities. Funds allocated to the schools have also been funneled to contractors controlled by Turkish nationals with connections to the Gulen movement.
The connections between the Gulen movement and Clinton are not the first to be revealed. They also add to questions about what it is the Gulenists want from Clinton and whether the Democrat has rewarded their financial support with favors.
Last year The Daily Caller reported that numerous Gulen followers have donated to Clinton’s various political campaigns and to her family charity. One Gulen movement leader, Recep Ozkan, donated between $500,000 and $1 million to the Clinton Foundation.
As senator from New York, Clinton gave a keynote address at the Turkish Cultural Center’s annual banquet.
The email to Abedin, which is the first piece of communication showing that a Gulen follower had direct access to Clinton’s staff, sought a favor.
“Please tell Madam Secretary that it would be great if President Obama can include a 15 minutes [sic] meeting with Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary-General of the Organization of of [sic] the Islamic Conference (OIC), in his trip to Turkey,” wrote Ozkok.
Some terror watchdog groups flagged the meetings, pointing to Ihsanoglu’s past praise of the terrorist group Hamas and for Sudanese president and U.S. foe Omar al-Bashir. But Ihsanoglu does not appear to be a radical firebrand like so many Islamists in the Middle East.
As for the Podesta Group, the lobbying firm has connections to several controversial companies seeking to peddle influence at Clinton’s State Department.