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U.S. House of Representatives to Hold Floor Vote on Armenian Genocide Resolution Today

WASHINGTON, DC – For the first time in more than 30 years, this week the U.S. House of Representatives is set to hold an up-or-down vote on the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H. Res. 296), a bipartisan measure locking in U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide, the first genocide of the 20th century. If adopted, this resolution would strike a powerful blow against the gag-rule Turkey has long enforced against genuine American remembrance of the Armenian Genocide.

Following Rules Committee passage yesterday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced that the H. Res. 296 would be on the House docket on Tuesday, October 29, 2019, setting up a potential vote as early as this afternoon.

“We applaud the action taken by the Rules Committee led by Chairman James McGovern (D-MA), the remarks by Committee Member Donna Shalala (D-FL) and the powerful testimony by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY) along with Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA),” stated Armenian Assembly of America Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. Yesterday’s “adoption of the rule for H.Res. 296 sets the stage for a historic vote on the House floor,” he said.

ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian called the resolution a “signal” to Turkey “that Washington won’t be bullied, U.S. policy can’t be hijacked, and American principles are not for sale.”

In addition to Armenian American organizations, major Greek American and Assyrian organizations are supporting the measure as they have since the beginning, one of the largest Christian groups in the U.S. the National Council of Churches, and once again Jewish American leaders from the Anti Defamation League and American Jewish Committee have strongly endorsed U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

“The Armenian community of Florida is uniquely positioned to play a decisive role in passage of H. Res. 296, the Armenian Genocide Resolution in 2019,” stated FLArmenians.com Editor Taniel Koushakjian. “Florida is now the third largest state in the U.S., the home of the Winter White House, and boasts one of the fastest growing Armenian communities in America. Let’s all make our voices heard today. Get on social media, send an email to your friends, and pick up your phone and dial your Congressman today!”

Call Your Representative’s DC Office This Morning –– Vote Could Happen This Afternoon

Yes, it’s it’s really happening. The U.S. House of Representative, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), is set to vote on the Armenian Genocide Resolution as early as this afternoon. It has over 140 cosponsors.

Here is a list of Florida’s Congressional delegation and their DC office phone numbers. If you don’t know who your Congressman is, click here to find out. We’ve also written a sample phone script for you, just scroll down.

Seven (7) of Florida’s 27 Members of Congress are cosponsors of the Armenian Genocide Resolution, they are in bold. Reps. Lois Frankel (D-FL) and Charlie Crist (D-FL) just signed on this morning –– joining original cosponsors Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Ross Spano (R-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), and Donna Shalala (D-FL) –– indicating they are likely to vote in favor of the resolution.

Call your Congressman/woman and ask them to VOTE YES on H. RES. 296. If he/she is a cosponsor, be sure to thank him/her for their cosponsorship!

North Florida

Matt Gaetz (R-FL-1): (202) 225-4136
Neal Dunn (R-FL-2) (202) 225-5235
Ted Yoho (R-FL-3): (202) 225-5744
John Rutherford (R-FL-4): (202) 225-2501
Al Lawson (D-FL-5): (202) 225-0123
Michael Waltz (R-FL-6): (202) 225-2706

Central Florida

Stephanie Murphy (D-FL-7): (202) 225-4035
Bill Posey (D-FL-8): (202) 225-3671
Darren Soto (D-FL-9): (202) 225-9889
Val Demings (D-FL-10): (202) 225-2176
Daniel Webster(R-FL-11): (202) 225-1002
Ross Spanno (R-FL-15): (202) 225-1252

West Coast Florida

Gus Bilirakis (R-FL-12): (202) 225-5755
Charlie Crist (D-FL-13): (202) 225-5961
Kathy Castor (D-FL-14): (202) 225-3376
Vern Buchanan (R-FL-16): (202) 225-5015
Greg Steube (R-FL-17): (202) 225-5792
Francis Rooney (R-FL-19): (202) 225-2536

South Florida

Brian Mast (R-FL-18): (202) 225-3026
Alcee Hastings (D-FL-20): (202) 225-1313
Lois Frankel (D-FL-21): (202) 225-9890
Ted Deutch (D-FL-22): (202) 225-3001
Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL-23): (202) 225-7931
Frederica Wilson (D-FL-24): (202) 225-4506
Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL-25): (202) 225-4211
Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL-26): (202) 225-2778
Donna Shalala (D-FL-27): (202) 225-3931

Sample Phone Script

Hello, my name is (Your Name) and I am calling from (Your City).

H.Res.296, the Armenian Genocide Resolution, is coming up for a vote on the House floor this week and when it does I urge you to VOTE YES.

It’s about time America spoke honestly about the Armenian Genocide. The world knows the truth. 49 U.S. States including Florida acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. This vote is important for many reasons. Do the right thing and vote YES when it comes up for a floor vote.

My family, friends and the local community will be watching this vote on C-SPAN and I look forward to seeing you cast your YES vote on this measure.

Thank you.

Don’t have time to make a call? Click here to send a pre-written email to your Representative. All you have to do is click here, enter your address, and click twice.

After you take action, forward this email to 3 friends, coworkers, or family members and tell them why it’s important to you!

If you use social media today, be sure to use the hashtags #ArmenianGenocide and #FLArmenians.

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Florida Congressman Ted Deutch, 35 House Members Call to Substantially Increase Aid for Armenia and Artsakh

Armenian Assembly Boosts Congressional Call for $100 million Democracy-Building and Economic Assistance Package

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL) joined 35 of his House colleagues in a letter that urges the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs to significantly increase prior aid requests to strengthen United States-Armenia relations and outlines key priorities for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, the Armenian Assembly of America announced. The letter was spearheaded by Armenian Caucus Founder and Co-Chair Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), and Caucus Vice Chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).

Ted Deutch

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL)

With sweeping cuts across the State Department’s budget, the Administration proposed $6.75 million for Armenia. A prior congressional effort requested $70 million, but today’s action increases the request to a total of $100 million for Armenia and Artsakh. The Armenian Assembly said that it “truly appreciates today’s action, and will continue working for further increases to Artsakh and Armenia.”

Four Members of Congress from Florida sit on the House Appropriations Committee: Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL), Rep. Mario Diaz-Bolart (R-FL), Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL), and Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL). Reps. Deutch and Crist are Members of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues.

The Armenian Caucus initiative requests:

  • $60 million for economic governance and rule of law assistance to Armenia through State Department and USAID accounts;
  • $10 million for military aid for Armenia through Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and International Military and Education Training (IMET) programs;
  • $20 million for Armenia to be a regional “safe haven” for refugees;
  • $6 million for Artsakh de-mining, rehabilitation programs, and water supply systems;
  • $4 million for implementation of the Royce-Engel peace proposals, including placement of OSCE-monitored, advanced gunfire locator systems;
  • That the State Department and USAID lift any official or unofficial restrictions on U.S. travel, communication, or contacts with Artsakh government officials; and
  • The suspension of U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan until it has been verified to have ceased all attacks against Armenia and Artsakh.

The letter states in part: “In the wake of the Republic of Armenia’s remarkable Velvet Revolution, we are writing to thank the Subcommittee for its longstanding leadership in support of both Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh). As you prepare the Fiscal Year 2020 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations bill, we ask you to include… provisions supporting a broad-based strategic upgrade of a U.S.-Armenia partnership based upon shared interests and common values.”

The Members of Congress also called for stricter provisions of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act to ensure that Azerbaijan does not take hostile actions against Armenia or Artsakh, as it did in the 2016 4-Day War, and pledge to demonstrate its commitment to pursuing lasting peace through solely non-violent means.

The letter concludes: “Taking these steps will continue to build on the U.S.-Armenia strategic relationship and help to grow the seeds of pro-democratic and civil society institutions in Armenia. We urge the Subcommittee to invest in peace and assist Armenia and Artsakh at this exciting time of continued development.”

“The Armenian Assembly welcomes this increased request in funding to Armenia. Given the remarkable democratic transformation last year in Armenia, we know that the community expects even more,” Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny said. “Moreover, the OSCE’s Election Observation Mission Report stated that the elections ‘were held with respect for fundamental freedoms and enjoyed broad public trust that needs to be preserved through further electoral reforms.'”

Additionally, the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe’s (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) reported that “election day proceeded calmly, peacefully, free of pressure on or intimidation of voters” and “the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression was respected.”

Armenian Assembly Co-Chair Van Krikorian Testifying Before the House Appropriations Committee (Pictured Members: Appropriations Chairwoman Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), and Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL).

Earlier this month, Assembly Co-Chair Van Krikorian, in testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee, requested $100 million in democracy and economic assistance, at least $10 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and International Military Education Training (IMET) to Armenia for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, and $20 million to help resettle and provide a safe haven for Christians at risk in Syria and throughout the Middle East, with at least $25 million in assistance to Artsakh. Krikorian cited Armenia’s remarkable year as more than a reason to significantly increase humanitarian aid, suggesting to the Subcommittee that the United States should “reward people who have made progress towards democracy.”

Krikorian applauded the Subcommittee for holding the important hearing, and greatly appreciated “Chairwoman Nita Lowey’s leadership and steadfast support for Armenia and Artsakh.”

Given Turkey and Azerbaijan’s ongoing blockades, the Assembly’s written testimony also shed light on the importance of aid to Armenia and Artsakh, the need to fully enforce Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act, and targeted assistance for economic development and job-creation programs in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region of the Republic of Georgia.

The Armenian Assembly’s submitted testimony for FY 2020 is available online.

Justice Department Files Reveal Activities of Firms Lobbying for Turkey

By Harout Sassounian
The California Courier

Sassounian headshotLast week, I described the terms of the $1.4 million contract signed by the Gephardt Group, the lobbying firm of former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt, to promote Turkey’s interests in Washington.

Realizing that its relationship with the United States has seriously deteriorated, the Turkish government has been pouring millions of dollars into the coffers of several U.S. firms, hoping to improve its image by whitewashing the dark stains of its dictatorial regime. For that purpose, Ankara on May 12 signed a contract with former Turkish national swimming champion Huma Gruaz and her Chicago-based public relations firm Alpaytac, Inc., for $1,420,000 a year. Oddly enough, instead of making monthly payments, the Turkish government gave Alpaytac $1 million up front upon signing the agreement, and paid the balance of $420,000 in the first three months. Alpaytac thus replaced the public relations firm of Fleishman-Hillard, which had received $779,805 from the Turkish Embassy for the 6-month period from Nov. 1, 2013 to April 30, 2014, at which time its contract was terminated.

In addition, Ankara benefits from the activities of the Turkish Coalition of America (TCA), which spent over $1 million to sponsor 170 congressional trips to Turkey since 2000. The TCA was founded in 2007 by Massachusetts microchip millionaire Yalcin Ayasli, who has donated close to $140,000 in the past 18 months to several pro-Turkish members of Congress, according to Al-Monitor.

Most people are unaware that pursuant to the Foreign Agents Registration Act, American firms representing foreign clients are required to report to the U.S. Justice Department their day-to-day activities every six months.

Alpaytac’s six-month report is not yet due. However, we would like to present excerpts from the detailed files the Gephardt Group and its subcontractors—Greenberg Traurig LLP, Lydia Borland, Brian Forni, and Dickstein Shapiro LLP—submitted to the Justice Department regarding their specific activities on behalf of Turkey from Aug. 1, 2013 to Jan. 31, 2014:

– On Sept. 19, 2013, forwarded a letter from Turkish Parliament Speaker Cemil Cicek to Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Patrick Leahy.

– Sent emails to Reps. Castro, Cohen, Connolly, Deutch, Esty, Foxx, Frankel, Gabbard, Kennedy, Schneider, Wagner, and Whitfield and Sen. Murphy regarding the upcoming visit of Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu; contacts were also established with several other members of Congress to discuss Syria, Iran sanctions, Hamas, and missile defense.

– Dick Gephardt reported making campaign contributions from Sept. 24 to Dec. 12, 2013 to: Reps. Alcee Hastings ($1,000), Barbara Lee ($1,000), Marjorie Margolies ($1,000), Richard Neal ($1,250), Brad Schneider ($500), Debbie Wasserman-Schultz ($1,500), Marc Veasey ($1,000), and Henry Waxman ($1,000); and Sens. Dick Durbin ($2,500), Mary Landrieu ($1,000), Claire McCaskill ($1,000), Mark Pryor ($1,500), and Ron Wyden ($2,500).

– Gephardt Group employees contributed to Sens. Dick Durbin ($500) and Jeanne Shaheen ($1,500); and Reps. Steve Cohen ($500), Colleen Hanabusa ($1,250), Jim Moran ($500), Brad Schneider ($500), and Henry Waxman ($500).

– Employees of Gephardt Group subcontractor Dickstein Shapiro LLC contacted Ben Branch, legislative director to Cong. Gregory Meeks, “regarding legislation focused on Turkish regional issues.” On behalf of Dickstein Shapiro, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert met with Turkish Ambassador Namik Tan and Sen. Ron Johnson “regarding U.S.-Turkey relations.”

– Other Dickstein Shapiro employees contacted the offices of Reps. George Holding, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Sheila Jackson Lee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Gregory Meeks, Chellie Pingree, Robert Pittenger, Dana Rohrabacher, Ed Royce, and Ed Whitfield; and Sens. John Boozman, Ron Johnson, Rand Paul, and Roger Wicker to discuss Turkish regional issues, Cyprus, Travel to Turkey, and U.S.-Turkey relations.

– Dickstein Shapiro employees contributed over $60,000 to the political campaigns of congressional candidates from July 20 to Dec. 19, 2013, including Sens. Lamar Alexander ($2,500), Kay Hagan ($9,000), Amy Klobuchar ($2,000), Mitch McConnell ($2,500), Mark Pryor ($2,500), and Tim Scott ($1,000); and Reps. Sanford Bishop ($2,500), Emanuel Cleaver ($1,500), Rick Crawford ($2,500), Steve Daines ($2,500), John Dingell ($1,000), Bill Huizenga ($2,500), Eddie Bernice Johnson ($1,000), Adam Kinzinger ($2,500), Mike McIntyre ($5,000), Buck McKeon ($1,500), Dutch Ruppersberger ($2,500), and Ed Whitfield ($2,500).

Since the lobbying firms hired by Turkey are obligated by law to report their detailed activities, it is important to regularly check their Justice Department filings to find out who they are contacting in Congress, for what purpose, and how much are they contributing to their political campaigns.

Harout Sassounian is a syndicated columnist, author, political analyst, and human rights activist in Los Angeles, California. He is the editor of The California Courier, a leading Armenian American weekly newspaper.