The Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) has identified a second individual working on behalf of an organization close to Turkish President Erdoğan, who is tied to the former campaign staff of Donald Trump. In October, the GIOR posted about Avenue Strategies, a lobbying group founded by a former Trump senior campaign adviser who will be helping a Turkish MP close to Erdoğan to develop connections in Washington. The Nordic Monitor report on which that post was based additionally identifies John Cpin, a partner in Avenue Strategies who also has ties to the Turkish Heritage organization:
October 11, 2020 This is not the first time Avenue Strategies’ relations with important Turkish figures have been revealed. In June 2019 Gönül Tol, director of the Turkey Program at Washington, D.C.,-based think tank the Middle East Institute, claimed in a tweet that THO had offered in an email to pay $350 to people who agreed to attend a conference at which Turkey’s justice minister, Abdülhamit Gül, would talk about the Turkish government’s judicial reform strategy. The email was sent by John Cpin, a partner in Avenue Strategies. In response to Tol’s claims, THO President Ali Çınar shared the image of an email by Cpin to Tol apologizing “for the misunderstanding” and claiming that “THO was not paying any honorarium.” The exchange revealed that Avenue Strategies was working for THO, with or without an official contract.
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The Turkish Heritage Organization (THO) has denied working with Avenue Partners, stating: “A public relations firm that we don’t work with sent this invitation to her [Gonul Tol] without our knowledge.” However, according to the Huffington Post, Cpin had been previously employed by the THO and was working for Avenue Partners at the time of the incident:
Ali Cinar, the head of the THO, told HuffPost the offer was false but that the organization had previously employed Cpin. Communicating with HuffPost via email, Cpin or the person controlling the email account said the invitation was sent without the THO’s knowledge to try and win fresh business by showing he could get prominent analysts to its events; the person said he planned to pay the honorarium from personal funds. Until earlier this year, a John Cpin worked as a lobbyist at Avenue Strategies Global LLC, the firm founded by Trump associates Corey Lewandowski and Barry Bennett. The company works for Turkey’s ally, Qatar.
John Cpin, in his capacity at Avenue Strategies, was also working for the Embassy of Qatar, at the same time as the honorarium incident. As we detailed in the previous post, Qatar is a strategic ally of Turkey, and Avenue Strategies has stated that it represents Qatar in public affairs matters. Avenue Strategies’ actions on behalf of the state of Qatar have included:
- Gaining the written testimony of a retired Israeli military intelligence officer stating that Qatar had not provided Hamas weapons, potentially preventing sanctions against Qatar.
- Contributing to forcing the Saudi American Public Relations Affairs Committee to register as a foreign agent.
The US-based Turkish Heritage Organization (THO) describes itself as a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dealing with US-Turkey relations and Turkey’s role in the international community, among others. Its current president Ali Cinar has written many articles or op-eds for state-operated and pro-government newspapers. His name appeared in a warning from a Turkey expert at the Center for American Progress think tank to Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign manager about the “Erdogan crew” investing in Democratic politicians. Its previous president and other THO leaders reported to Erdoğan’s son-in-law and other Turkish officials about the THO’s lobbying efforts.