Turkish Coalition of America

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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 American, 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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Turkish Group Appeals Court Ruling over 'Unreliable Websites'

By: Weekly Staff
Fri, Aug 26 2011

The Turkish Coalition of America (TCA) has appealed a Federal Court’s March 30th decision to dismiss the lawsuit brought forth by the TCA against the University of Minnesota, its President, and another professor, for having included the TCA’s website on a list of “unreliable websites” due to the latter’s denial of the Armenian Genocide.

Last Fall, the TCA, together with first-year university student Sinan Cingilli, originally from Turkey, sued the University of Minnesota, its then-president Robert Bruininks, and Prof. Bruno Chaouat, director of the University’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies (CHGS), for posting a list of “unreliable websites” on the CHGS website. The list of websites deemed unreliable to the study of genocide—because they promoted genocide denial—included that of the TCA. The complaint was dismissed (“with prejudice”) on the grounds of academic freedom.

The TCA is appealing the decision with support from the Rutherford Institute as a “friend of the court,” claiming that the student’s rights to academic freedom, protected by the First Amendment, were violated.

The University filed a reply on Aug. 15. In it, it argued that in order to deliberate on the case, the Court would have to decide which viewpoint on the Armenian Genocide was correct. “Such issues of scholarly opinion and debate are not appropriately resolved through the courts,” added the University.

The University also argued that Prof. Chaouat and the CHGS were protected by the principle of academic freedom, and therefore could deem certain sources of information unreliable.

“Universities and their faculty members have the right to express their views on academic matters. They have the right to provide recommendations and advice to students and others regarding the reliability of sources of information, including websites, and whether the sources should be used for scholarly research and writing,” it stated.

The University added that the TCA had not established a “cognizable injury,” and that neither the TCA nor Cingilli were prohibited from expressing their viewpoints, and no one was restricted from accessing the TCA’s website.

“Cingilli has no right to avoid receiving recommendations and advice from University professors, especially when he affirmatively seeks them out,” stated the University in its reply.

The University also cited the Massachusetts case of Griswold v. Driscoll, where the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA), along with two state teachers and a student, had sued the Massachusetts Department of Education over Armenian Genocide education in Massachusetts schools. They had claimed that “contra Genocide” viewpoints had to be included in school curricula as a First Amendment right. Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter, writing for the circuit court, had denied that appeal.

See also