By Kevin Bogardus - 04/10/09 03:12 PM EDT
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and others at his firm, Dickstein Shapiro, are working on a $35,000-per-month contract for Turkey, according to records on file with the Justice Department.
The agreement is a subcontract between Hastert’s firm and the Gephardt Group, founded by Richard Gephardt, the ex-Missouri congressman who was the Democratic House leader for several years. Gephardt and others at DLA Piper replaced the Livingston Group, longtime lobbyists for Turkey, as its Washington representatives last year.
In a Feb. 27 letter to Thomas O’Donnell, Gephardt’s former chief of staff and executive vice president at his firm, Dickstein partner Robert Mangas says he and Hastert “will be principally involved in the representation” of Turkey. Mangas says in the letter that the firm will serve as Turkey’s counsel, “in connection with the extension and strengthening of the Turkish-American relationship” in several areas, such as trade, energy security and counterterrorism efforts.
Also working with Hastert and Mangas on the contract at Dickstein are Allison Shulman, a legislative specialist at the firm, and former Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.), according to Justice Department records.
One issue Hastert and others lobbying for Turkey will have to deal with this year is a congressional resolution that defines the killing of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks in the early 1900s as genocide. The Turkish government opposes the resolution and has lobbied against it every time it has been introduced in Congress.
On the campaign trail last year, Barack Obama explicitly said the killing was genocide. But on a recent trip to Turkey, President Obama only said he stood by those prior statements. He did not use the word “genocide,” angering some Armenian-American activists.
This Congress, the resolution to recognize the massacre as genocide was introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). So far, the bill has attracted 93 co-sponsors.
In October 2007, the same resolution was passed out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in a contentious vote. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) did not end up allowing the bill to come to a vote as Turkish officials repeatedly said passing the resolution would threaten the nation's alliance with the United States.
Hastert has also been involved in the debate over the genocide resolution. In 2000, the Illinois Republican, then House Speaker, took the measure off the voting schedule after being asked by President Bill Clinton to do so.