How Azerbaijan’s Paid Agents Manipulate the American Media

For several years, dozens of articles have appeared in U.S., Israeli, and European newspapers lavishly praising Azerbaijan and severely criticizing Armenia. Most of these articles are written by non-Azerbaijanis who are handsomely compensated by the Azerbaijani government.

Former Congressman Dan Burton, who was paid to serve as head of the Azerbaijan America Alliance, wrote at least two op-ed articles in the Washington Times and Daily Caller on what a wonderful country Azerbaijan is, without disclosing that he was on Baku’s payroll.

One man, Casey Michel, had the courage to expose this scam in a lengthy article titled “Azerbaijan’s American Media Manipulation.” He had done extensive research, linking several of these pro-Azerbaijani authors to Azerbaijan’s well-financed lobbying activities.

In an attempt “to whitewash its dictatorial image…the autocratic government of Ilham Aliyev has unleashed spin-doctors, duped reporters, and led one of the most brazen pushes to abuse American lobbying loopholes of any foreign government,” Michel wrote.

Some of these hired pens sing the praises of Azerbaijan and mislead the public by acting as if they are uninvolved third parties who are making objective assessments of the situation in Azerbaijan, whereas, in reality, they are on the payroll of the Azeri regime or its state energy company, SOCAR. Here are some concrete examples…

Former Congressman Dan Burton, who was paid to serve as head of the Azerbaijan America Alliance, wrote at least two op-ed articles in the Washington Times and Daily Caller on what a wonderful country Azerbaijan is, without disclosing that he was on Baku’s payroll. Fortunately, Congressman Burton quit his job when Azerbaijan stopped paying him.

Michel then mentions Jason Katz as the most prolific pro-Azerbaijan propagandist, the founder of The Tool Shed Group, a U.S. lobbying firm hired by Azerbaijan. Katz wrote a series of articles in Huffington Post in praise of Azerbaijan’s “democracy,” claiming the country to be “a progressive, cosmopolitan, open, secular and Western-oriented society.”

To his credit, Katz initially disclosed in these articles that he was a “senior advisor to the Republic of Azerbaijan.” However, shortly thereafter, Katz began to conceal his relationship with the Azerbaijani government. Since late 2013, Katz has written at least nine articles in praise of the Aliyev regime, four of them for Roll Call and three for The Hill, in one of them foolishly claiming that “the U.S. can learn much from a nation like Azerbaijan,” Michel reported. Katz also wrote an outrageous article in National Review early in 2014, “equating the Armenian government with the Taliban!” In all nine articles Katz had failed to mention that his firm, The Tool Shed Group, was being paid by Azerbaijan!

Michel went to great lengths to expose Katz by contacting various publications and informing them about Katz’s lobbying efforts on behalf of Azerbaijan. Most of these publications then added corrections after Katz’s articles were published, noting his close affiliation with Azerbaijan.

For example, the National Review, after hearing from Michel, put a new note under Katz’s name, disclosing that Katz is a consultant to foreign states, “including the Azerbaijani government.” The Hill also inserted an editor’s note after Katz’s name, revealing that “Katz is paid to provide strategic advice to Azerbaijan. This note was added after Katz’s foreign agent registration was brought to the attention of The Hill.”

These articles not only mislead the American readers about Azerbaijan but also cause afurther damage when reprinted in the Azeri press as evidence of the high regard Americans have for Azerbaijan!

Switching tactics, Katz’s wife, Mallory Moss, began to write similar anti-Armenian articles on the Artsakh (Karabagh) conflict in mid-2014. She wrote one for the Capitol Weekly and two for the Hill, under the guise of being a nurse! Michel discovered that Mallory Moss had registered under her name the website, which was reregistered under the name of Jason Katz. “The registrant organization listed for Moss was The Tool Shed Group,” Michel reported. Mallory Moss’s op-eds should have been filed under the Foreign Agent Registration Act of the U.S. Justice Department! When Michel reported to The Hill about Mallory Moss’s association with Jason Katz and The Tool Shed Group, The Hill added an editor’s note under her article: “A firm that is paid to provide strategic advice to Azerbaijan submitted this op-ed. The note was added after information was brought to the attention of The Hill.”

Finally, Michel mentions the case of Prof. Brenda Shaffer, who had written pro-Azerbaijani articles for the New York Times and the Washington Post. In both cases, she had failed to mention that she was an adviser or consultant to Azerbaijan’s state-run oil company, SOCAR. Subsequently, both newspapers published an editor’s note exposing her financial relationship with SOCAR.

There are many others who are hired by Azerbaijan to write propaganda pieces in the Western media on behalf of the “Caspian kleptocracy,” as Michel describes the country. Unfortunately, we are unable to name these propagandists without solid evidence of payoffs from Azerbaijan.

Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh one billion dollars of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.


  1. Such activities, moral or immoral, right or wrong, are a fact of life in the United States. It is readily available to Armenian authors to do the same.

    • “Right”… From Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver to the members of the United States Congress, such activities have one name: moral prostitution. “Facts of life” never changed nor will they ever change the universal human values… in this country or any other.

  2. Apart from their obvious hydrocarbon wealth with which they buy off important politicians, businessmen, journalists, etc. like all lobbies do, the Azerbaijanis’ success in their lobbying activities in the United States and in other countries, is also because they studied and are emulating the Armenian and Jewish lobbies, which are of course way older and powerful, especially the latter, and with whom the Azerbaijanis cooperate very closely.

    The Azerbaijanis are emulating the same vigor of the Armenian lobby, with their own cause with successful results. The Armenian lobby which used to be so successful, has slacked off and is not so robust as they used to be. What are the underlying reasons for this?

    While Armenia gets blamed for being pro-Russian in some US quarters (which is of course a geostrategic necessity and even survival strategy for Armenia in a neigborhood bordering a very hostile Azerbaijan and Turkey), Azerbaijan is no less pro-Russian than Armenia, and has even closer economic and military relations with Russia, yet it doesn’t get blamed for this, as Armenia does.

    In addition, Azerbaijan has an atrocious human rights record, which is often brushed aside by the West. And while Armenia’s human rights record is far form perfect, it is much better than all of its neighbors, except Georgia, but it gets reprimanded by the United States.

  3. Who cares?! You want to know why many Armenians are not actively lobbying in US as they used to do? It is simple. After years of lobbying, they finally realized that they are wasting their money and time! Truth is that major US foreign policy decisions are not going to be influenced by this type of ethnic lobbying. Jews are a different story, they have their representatives among the ruling elite.
    Azerbaijan is more than welcome to squander more money on the likes of Dan Barton. That money could have been spent on building schools, hospitals or universities in Baku. If Azerbaijanis were smart they would have asked their leadership why is it that in spite of billions of dollars of oil revenue their biggest bank, International Bank of Azerbaijan, has filed for bankruptcy protection in New York a few months ago.
    I wish Mr. Sassounian would spend more time on writing about Armenia’s democratization instead of Erdogan or Dan Barton. Our biggest failure after more than 20 years of Armenia’s independence is not our lobbying in Washington, it is the failure to turn Armenia into a democratic state. After the April war, many Armenians wrote about Israeli sophisticated drones used against Armenians but no one even mentioned that our major problem was night vision goggles that our soldiers did not have on the line of contact. You will be surprised to know that in 1967 during the 6 day war, Israel still didn’t have its own TV broadcast since their leadership considered it some type of unnecessary luxury. Israel at the time already had nuclear weapons.

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