The campaign of Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic Party nominee for the US presidential election in November, has appointed Elvir Klempic, the former executive director of the Turkish Heritage Organization (THO), as the national affinity and ethnic engagement director, according to the Asbarez news website.
THO is known for its close ties to the inner circle of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Leaked emails published by Wikileaks in late 2017 show that the organization was created in 2014, with the involvement of Erdoğan’s son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, who at the time was Turkey’s energy minister (currently finance minister) as a way to “camouflage” Turkey’s lobbying activities in the US.
In the emails THO’s former president Halil Danışmaz details a “roadmap” to “circumvent tax and other impediments in the laws” by hiring journalists who could get access to “American political and bureaucratic circles,” including members of Congress. These journalists would then get paid to write and publish articles in American newspapers and on news sites essentially advocating for Erdoğan’s agenda and developing opinion in legislative circles.
Danışmaz, who before becoming THO president was a board member of the Turkish American National Steering Committee, was questioned by the FBI along with other Turks over their operations in the US and ties to the Turkish government.
He unceremoniously left THO and was replaced by Ali Çınar, who during an event in 2015 said “Armenian Genocide allegations are both racist and dishonest.”
In a column in the Washington Examiner on July 21, Turkey analyst Michael Rubin commented on the Erdoğan government’s efforts to “infiltrate” the Biden campaign.
“At the Turkish Heritage Organization, [Klempic] promoted the Erdogan regime’s talking points uncritically. A Bosnian website’s profile shows how his activities working on behalf of Democratic candidates and the Turkish Heritage Organization overlapped,” Rubin said.