Virginia gubernatorial candidate, a Turkish lobbyist, should be defeated

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Jan. 9, 2018. (DoD photo by Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kathryn E. Holm/Public Domain)

On August 20, the Washington Free Beacon online newspaper published an article by Chuck Ross titled: “Turkey Paid McAuliffe’s Firm to Lobby US Against Recognition of Armenian Genocide.”

Terry McAuliffe is the Democratic Party candidate for governor of the State of Virginia. He won the Democratic Primary election on June 8, 2021 and will face Republican Party nominee Glenn Youngkin in the state’s general election in November. The polls indicate that it is a very close race. McAuliffe previously served as Virginia governor from 2014 to 2018.

Armenian-Americans should help defeat McAuliffe to send a signal that they will not tolerate anyone who lies about the Armenian Genocide and gets paid for it!

The government of Turkey paid McAuliffe’s consulting firm, McAuliffe, Kelly, & Raffaelli, nearly $1.3 million from 1990 to 1994 to do “a variety of lobbying and public relations services,” including hindering the US Congress from acknowledging the Armenian Genocide, The Washington Free Beacon reported.

McAuliffe was the chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a longtime friend of Pres. Bill Clinton and his wife Sec. Hillary Clinton. Even though McAuliffe has said that he did not engage in the day-to-day lobbying activities of his firm, his former partner Richard Spees told Politico Magazine that “he was the glue that held the place together.” According to Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) disclosures that I have reviewed, McAuliffe’s lobbying company contributed tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations to dozens of House and Senate members, arranged private meetings for the Turkish Ambassador in Washington with members of Congress and regularly met with multiple members of Congress and high-level White House officials in the course of its lobbying activities.

According to FARA disclosures, “McAuliffe’s firm received $1,287,500 from the Turkish government to arrange meetings with American policymakers for Turkey’s ambassador and diplomats. Turkey’s contract called on the firm to lobby Congress on bilateral trade and to ‘counter any efforts detrimental to the Turkish-U.S. relationship,’” which included blocking congressional efforts to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, according to The Washington Free Beacon.

In an article published on March 26, 2009, the Washington Post noted: “Perhaps most controversial was the company’s [McAuliffe, Kelly, & Raffaelli] representation of Turkey at a time when that government was the subject of international scrutiny for alleged human rights abuses. The firm was criticized by name in a report called ‘The Torturers’ Lobby’ published in 1992 by the Center for Public Integrity. The McAuliffe campaign [during his failed bid for Governor in 2009] said the company’s work for Turkey had to do with a longstanding dispute between Armenia and Turkey over a period of history after World War I when the Ottoman Empire killed, by some estimates, more than 1 million Armenians. Every year, Armenia [more correctly, Armenian-Americans] seeks legislation in Congress characterizing this period as the Armenian Genocide, and every year, the Turkish government opposes the legislation.”

“McAuliffe was implicated in the 1996 Democratic National Committee campaign finance scandal, in which he arranged overnight stays at the White House for Democratic Party donors. Before his first stint as governor of Virginia, McAuliffe directly lobbied the Obama administration to help his electric car company, GreenTech Automotive, gain access to a federal visa program for potential Chinese investors. The Justice Department also investigated whether McAuliffe took illegal donations from a Chinese billionaire during his 2013 gubernatorial campaign,” the Washington Free Beacon revealed.

“McAuliffe’s [current] campaign did not respond to a request for comment about his firm’s contract with Turkey or his position on the 2019 recognition of the Armenian genocide,” The Washington Free Beacon reported.

Many years have passed since the firm lobbied the federal government on behalf of Turkey. In 2019 Congress recognized the Armenian Genocide, followed by Pres. Joe Biden in 2021. However, Armenian-Americans should never forget the names of those who sold their souls for the almighty dollar. This is a disgrace that such lobbyists should carry to their graves. Furthermore, McAuliffe has never apologized for his firm’s deceitful actions and has not asked for forgiveness. This is more of a reason why no Armenian should ever consider forgetting his despicable actions. It does not matter at all what political party such denialists belong to.

This is a timely matter since Pres. Biden recently nominated former Senator Jeff Flake (Republican of Arizona) to serve as US Ambassador to Turkey. As a House of Representatives member, he voted in 2005, 2007 and 2010 against the Armenian Genocide resolution in the International Relations Committee. In 2014, Flake was also one of only five US Senators to oppose the Armenian Genocide resolution in the Committee on Foreign Relations.

Flake has not apologized for the series of shameful votes he cast in the House and Senate denying the truth of the Armenian Genocide. It remains to be seen how he will explain his negative votes on the Armenian Genocide to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that will consider his nomination.

The last thing Armenian-Americans need is a denialist U.S. Ambassador in Ankara who will reinforce the Turkish government’s lies on the Armenian Genocide. Senators should ask some tough questions to Sen. Flake, and if they are not satisfied with his answers, they should block his nomination.


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 $917 million 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. Several years ago when the Richmond ANCA asked about McAuliffe endorsing the Virginia Armenian Genocide resolution, the price was $100,000 to have McAuliffe commitment.

  2. This sort of information (about Senator Flake) should be passed along to Republicans, in Congress, as well as Democrats. With the current circumstances of political polarization, Republicans may well be glad to use this information to help Senator Flake a damaged commodity. The same thing goes for Virginia Governor McAuliffe (also a Democrat).

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