Socialist Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar’s campaign has received $1,500 from the co-chairman of a Turkish-American advocacy group that is closely linked to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Federal Elections Commission records show.
Critics note that the contribution to Omar’s campaign last month came amid votes she cast supporting Turkish government positions.
Omar was the only Democrat to vote against imposing sanctions against Turkey over air strikes against the Syrian Kurds, who have worked with U.S. forces in the fight against Islamic State (ISIS). The House voted 403-16 in favor of the measure.
Omar and the contributor, Halil Mutlu, were photographed together at an event for the Turkish American Steering Committee (TASC), “a U.S.-based nonprofit that has for years waged public relations campaigns in support of Turkish government policies” and Erdogan, The Daily Caller reported on Oct 30.
Some media outlets have identified Mutlu, the co-chairman of TASC, as Erdogan’s purported cousin from Connecticut.
Omar was criticized last week for voting against resolutions aimed at punishing Turkey over its military operation last month against Syrian Kurds.
Omar, the Daily Caller noted, “has remained largely silent on Erdogan, with whom she met in New York City in September 2017, when she served in the Minnesota House.”
Under Erdogan’s watch, Turkey has become the world’s leading jailer of journalists, according to Amnesty International.
The TASC group has also held rallies outside the White House condemning Syrian Kurds as terrorists, a position held by the Turkish government. Media reports show Mutlu has also led TASC protests outside the Pennsylvania home of Fethullah Gulen, an exiled Muslim cleric who Erdogan wants extradited back to Turkey.
TASC routinely hosts Erdogan during his visits to the U.S., including on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last month.
“TASC is a reliable apologist for Erdogan. There’s no space between them,” Aram Hamparian, the executive director Armenian National Committee of America told the Daily Caller.
Founded in 2015, TASC “has orchestrated a public relations push to cast doubt on whether the Ottoman empire committed genocide against Armenians more than a century ago,” the Daily Caller reported.
Omar was also highly criticized for her defense of a neutral vote she cast on a resolution to recognize the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians during Ottoman rule in 1915 as genocide. The House overwhelmingly passed the resolution, 405-11, with three lawmakers, including Omar, voting “present.”
In a statement after the vote, Omar said that the genocide resolution was being used as a “cudgel in a political fight” against Turkey, which is a NATO ally of the U.S. She also said that she was withholding judgment on the genocide question until an “academic consensus” had been formed.
Advocates for the Armenian genocide resolution said that Omar’s statement mirrors propaganda pushed by the Turkish government.