Armenian-American media is reporting that the former director of a US NGO with multiple connections to Turkish President Erdoğan was appointed as a campaign official with Joe Biden’s US Presidential campaign. According to the report:
August 4, 2020 The campaign of Joseph Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, has appointed Elvir Klempic, the former executive director of the Turkish Heritage Organization (THO), as National Affinity and Ethnic Engagement Director. Klempic, who immigrated to the United States with his family from Bosnia, settling in Iowa, has been active in Democratic circles for several years now. However, Klempic’s tenure at the THO, which has close ties not only to the Turkish government, but also to the inner circle of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan should raise red flags, especially since he is tasked with engaging the various ethnic communities—presumably also the Armenian community—around the U.S. in Biden’s bid for the presidency.
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According to the job description, Klempić’s duties will include managing and executing an ethnic and affinity focused constituency outreach plan and supporting and providing “strategic recommendations for the travel of the Vice President, Dr. Biden and high level surrogates nationally.”
The Turkish Heritage Organization (THO, where Klempić previously served as Executive Director, describes itself as:
“a young, independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that promotes discussion and dialogue around Turkey’s role in the international community and issues of importance in the U.S.-Turkey bilateral relationship, as well as an analysis of the NATO alliance and geopolitics of the region.”
The THO has a number of connections to President Erdoğan or organizations supporting the Turkish government. THO’s current president is Ali Cinar (Turkish: Ali Çınar), a columnist for the pro-government newspaper Milliyet, who has also written many articles or op-eds for state-operated TRT World and the pro-government Daily Sabah, where Erdoğan’s family have been board members. In 2015, a Turkey expert at the Center for American Progress think tank warned Hilary Clinton presidential campaign chairman John Podesta that the “Erdogan crew” was investing in Democratic candidates through donations and mentioned Ali Cinar’s name specifically. Cinar has since testified about Turkey before Congress.
The THO’s first and previous president, Halil Danismaz, also has a history of connections to President Erdoğan as:
- He and other THO leaders reported to Erdoğan’s son-in-law and other Turkish officials about the THO’s lobbying efforts.
- Danismaz spoke at a congressional panel about the July 2016 Turkish coup, advocating the Turkish government’s position.
- Danismaz left the THO and US in 2016 after he was interviewed by the FBI about his work for the Turkish government, accusing him of intervening in American politics on behalf of President Erdoğan and working as a secret agent for Turkey.
- Danismaz was a board member of the Turkish American National Steering Committee, whose president at the time was interviewed by the FBI for the same reasons and whose current co-chair is a cousin of President Erdoğan.
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