A newly-released email and lobbying documents filed with Congress reveals new ties between Clintonworld and members of a network operated by a mysterious Islamic cleric from Turkey.
Connections between Clinton and acolytes of the imam, Fethullah Gulen, could muddle the complex relationship between the U.S. and Turkey, a key NATO ally, if the former secretary of state wins the White House.
Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has mounted an aggressive crackdown against Gulen and his followers, known as Gulenists. Erdoğan, who was once allied with Gulen, has even personally asked President Obama to extradite the 74-year-old guru, who has lived in self-exile in Pennsylvania’s Pocono mountains since 1999.
Erdoğan has accused Gulen of attempting to undermine the Turkish government. Gulen’s followers control many Turkish institutions, including the media, courts, and police force.
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.