House Ethics Committee Orders Congresswoman To Repay $500,000 To Turkish-American Group
Washington D.C. - On Friday, August 5, the House Ethics Committee ruled that a Turkish-American group improperly paid roughly $500,000 in legal bills that U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt amassed in lawsuits against a political rival and ordered the Cincinnati area Republican to repay the lawyers herself.
Schmidt received the free legal assistance in her lawsuit against David Krikorian, who ran as an independent against Schmidt in 2008 for Ohio's 2nd Congressional District and also unsuccessfully ran in the Democratic primary for the same seat last year.
Schmidt is suing Krikorian for defamation and seeking $6.8 million in damages. During the '08 campaign, Krikorian, who is of Armenian descent, distributed campaign literature in 2008 alleging Schmidt had received `blood money' from the Turkish government in return for her opposition to a congressional resolution that declared Turkey committed genocide against Armenia during a 1915 conflict.
Last year, Krikorian filed complaints against Schmidt with the Office of Congressional Ethics, which questioned whether Schmidt improperly accepted legal services from the Turkish group.
`The Committee's review of the matter indicated that Representative Schmidt did, in fact, receive an impermissible gift from (the Turkish Coalition of America, or TCA) as (the Office of Congressional Ethics, or OCE) has alleged, and therefore the Committee did not dismiss the OCE matter,' the committee's report stated.
`However, the Committee has found that Representative Schmidt's lawyers failed to inform her of their payment arrangement with TCA, and made false and misleading statements to her about about their relationship with TCA and (the Turkish American Legal Defense Fund). Because Representative Schmidt did not know she was receiving a gift from TCA, the Committee has determined that no sanction is appropriate in this case.'
The committee did find, though, the gift was impermissible under House rules and Schmidt must reimburse the money. The committee's report also stated Schmidt received aid from attorneys in at least three legal matters, then those attorneys sent their bills to the Turkish Coalition of America for payment.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Schmidt has received $12,650 from the Turkish Coalition U.S.A. PAC and another $5,800 from the Turkish American Heritage PAC. `Overall, these two organizations have given federal candidates $187,555 since 2007, which means contributions to Schmidt account for roughly 10 percent of all their donations,' the center has reported.
Also, the center reports Schmidt also took a $10,000 trip to Turkey in 2009, sponsored by the Turkish Coalition of America; and the Turkish American Legal Defense Fund provided her legal counsel for a related suit before the Ohio Election Commission.
Krikorian, a Madeira businessman of Armenian descent, alleges that in return for their cash, Schmidt opposed congressional efforts to declare as genocide the mass killing of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during World War I.
In a statement,Krikorian decision proved he was `right all along.' He said he finds it `laughable' that Schmidt `did not know the facts regarding her own attorneys in legal actions which she commenced in her own name.'
`The American people are tired of Congressmen and women who break the rules and get away with it by blaming someone else,' said Krikorian.
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Darling of Turkish Lobby Voted out of Congress
Posted by Weekly Staff on March 7, 2012
Schmidt’s Ethical Violations Contributed to Defeat
CINCINATTI, Ohio—In a major upset, Brad Wenstrup, a doctor who has never before held political office, ousted seven-year incumbent Rep. Jean Schmidt (R) in a nail-biter GOP primary contest for Ohio’s second Congressional district, local papers reported last night.
According to Politico, Schmidt’s loss was connected to her dealings with the Turkish lobby: “Schmidt’s loss followed a series of negative headlines surrounding an investigation conducted by the Office of Congressional Ethics, which examined whether she received free legal services from the Turkish American Legal Defense Fund in her protracted courtroom fight against her 2008 Democratic opponent, David Krikorian. Last May, the OCE referred the case to the House ethics committee.”
The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) issued a statement highlighting Schmidt’s ties to groups campaigning for the continued denial of the Armenian Genocide. “We welcome Congresswoman Jean Schmidt’s rejection by Ohio voters,” read the statement. “The ethics investigation into her impermissible financial ties with genocide-denial groups allied with Ankara clearly contributed meaningfully to her defeat, as did, no doubt, voter backlash against her relentlessly mean-spirited and unfair attacks against Armenian American candidate David Krikorian.”
In a statement released on Aug. 5, 2011, the House Ethics Committee ruled that Schmidt had received—and must pay back—a total of $500,000 in multiple improper gifts from the Turkish Coalition of America (TCA) between 2008 and 2010. Schmidt did not, however, face sanctions by the House, as she was able to pin the blame for her behavior on her attorneys Bruce Fein and David Saltzman.
“The Ethics Committee proved that we were right all along: Rep. Schmidt has received a half a million dollars in improper gifts from the TCA,” said Krikorian after the ruling.
“As I’ve stated publicly before, I neither sought nor intended to accept free legal services,” Schmidt said in a statement. “I have been waiting for the Ethics Committee’s advice as to the best way to pay these bills. Now that I have that advice, I look forward to continuing to work cooperatively with the Committee to ensure that these bills are paid appropriately.”
Krikorian considered Schmidt’s efforts to plead ignorance “laughable.”
“Personally I find it hard to believe that Jean Schmidt did not know the facts regarding her own attorneys in legal actions commenced in her own name. I find that to be laughable!” he said. “The American people are tired of Congressmen and women who break the rules and get away with it by blaming someone else. The people of Ohio’s second district deserve better than an ignorant Congresswoman,” he added.
The people of Ohio’s second district have now spoken.