Weekly The Generation, Year 1, Issue 15
December 12, 2023
NEW YORK: A Turkish-American influence group closely aligned with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been cultivating a relationship with Mayor Adams for at least eight years, the New York Daily News has learned
Members of the group known as the Turkish American National Steering Committee (TASC) — have donated thousands of dollars to Adams’ political operation since at least 2015. Last year, a top mayoral adviser and a donor to Adams’ transition committee attended a TASC gala at which Erdogan was present.
And TASC has also targeted Adams’ government operation. In 2020, it gave $16,000 in “in-kind” donations to the Brooklyn borough president’s office, which Adams led at the time, although public records don’t make clear what form those contributions took.
Just what TASC might want from a relationship with Adams is unclear. But the interest the group has taken in him and some other U.S. politicians is rooted primarily in Turkey’s public image abroad, according to Henri Barkey, an expert on Turkey and adjunct senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
In addition to Adams’ fundraising operation, investigators are probing several trips he has made to Turkey over the years. They are also looking into whether anyone affiliated with the campaign took any action to benefit officials in Turkey, according to a search warrant cited by the New York Times.
The mayor has not been accused of any wrongdoing, and no indictments have been made public as part of the probe. Groups like TASC perform multiple functions — including lobbying, disseminating information and monitoring perceived threats to Erdogan abroad, according to Barkey.
In Barkey’s estimation, Adams’ connections to Turkey are surprising given accusations that Erdogan’s government has violated sanctions against Iran and has defended Hamas.
TASC hosted a gala on Sept. 18, 2022, in Manhattan attended by Erdogan, Adams’ senior adviser Joel Eisdorfer and Israfil Demir, a former TASC co-chairman who donated $1,000 to Adams’ transition team and is now awaiting sentencing for admitting to federal conspiracy charges in New Jersey earlier this year, photos reviewed by the Daily News show.
On top of his TASC co-chair post, Demir, who campaign records show gave the $1,000 to the mayor’s transition committee in December 2021, also used to serve as head of the U.S. youth branches of Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and ran an election campaign for him in the U.S., according to Middle East Forum.
In addition to attending last year’s TASC gala, Erdogan once met Adams at a dinner hosted in the city by a nonprofit. Last month, Adams told reporters the dinner took place while he was Brooklyn borough president, but did not identify the host or specify the year of the event.
In August 2021, after Adams’ victory in the Democratic primary, he hosted a fundraiser at the Ali Baba Turkish restaurant in Manhattan and was joined by Erol Akyurek, TASC’s New York representative. According to city Campaign Finance Board records, Akyurek has given a total of $3,000 to Adams’ political operation over the last four years — $2,000 to his 2021 campaign and $1,000 to his 2025 run.
During the Ali Baba fundraiser, Adams told potential donors that his campaign needed to “raise $3 million in a short period of time” for the general election, a video posted on YouTube shows.
A review of campaign finance records conducted by the Daily News also found that TASC board members Murat Guzel and Behram Turan gave Adams’ 2021 campaign a total of $13,100 — $9,100 of which was returned due to campaign contribution limits. But Adams’ ties to TASC go back even further than that.
Ibrahim Kurtulus, a Turkish-American businessman who has been identified in TASC press releases as being a member of the group’s executive committee, began donating to Adams in 2015. He gave $2,000 in February 2015 to Adams’ borough president campaign and another $50 in May 2021 to his first mayoral run, records show.
Kurtulus, who has helped organize several flag-raising ceremonies for the mayor in Manhattan, was caught up in controversy after it emerged that Michael Flynn, former President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, had failed to initially disclose in federal filings a $10,000 payment from Kurtulus to deliver a speech at an October 2016 event in New York.
Source: New York Daily News