Perlmutter Pressured by Armenian Group


Rep. Ed Pearlmutter

Rep. Ed Pearlmutter

By Kathy Smiley

WASHINGTON (Eastern Colorado News) — An Armenian advocacy group is ratcheting up pressure on a local U.S. congressman, accusing him of being influenced by lobbyists for the Turkish government and calling for him to redirect certain campaign contributions to charity.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat from Golden, raised the ire of Colorado American Armenians last spring when he declined to cosponsor a House resolution recognizing that the Ottoman Turkish Empire committed genocide against Armenians from 1915 to 1923. The congressman, who represents the 7th Congressional District, has been a longstanding supporter of the Armenian cause, including cosponsoring the previous congressional session’s resolution, which is identical to the current version.

House Resolution 252, “Calling upon the President to ensure that the foreign policy of the United States reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, ethnic cleansing, and genocide documented in the United States record relating to the Armenian Genocide and for other purposes, “was introduced March 17 with 135 cosponsors. It was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The resolution states the Armenian Genocide was conceived and carried out by the Ottoman Empire, resulting in the deportation of nearly 2 million Armenians of whom 1.5 million were killed.

A “Timeline on Perlmutter and the Armenian Genocide” prepared by the Rocky Mountain Hye Advocates, an American-Armenian nonpartisan citizens group, states that in June 2009, “The Associated Press unveiled congressional contributions by military corporations lobbying for Turkey aimed at derailing the Armenian Genocide resolution. RMHA research discovers details of contributions to Perlmutter from two of these corporations.”

An October 23 RMHA press release called for an explanation from the Congressman.

Perlmutter denies allegations of influence-peddling.

The June 13 article by the Associated Press business writer Stephen Singer reported that five military contractors including Northrop Grumman Corp. and Raytheon Co. lobbied “quietly” against the resolution. “The six companies have strong ties to Turkey, a key strategic ally of the US in Mideast peace efforts and the fight against terrorism,” the article states. “None would state their position on the House resolution, but industry analysts and others said they likely lobbied against the measure to show support for Turkey, and important market for weapons and industrial products.”

According to OpenSecrets.org, the Web site of a nonpartisan group tracking money in politics, Raytheon is one of Perlmutter’s 14th highest contributors, giving $5,000 in the 2009-10 cycle. Northrop Grumman contributed $1,000 in 2009-10 and $5,000 in 2007-08.

When the Eastern Colorado News asked for a statement explaining his decision not to cosponsor the resolution last September, Perlmutter cited current delicate negotiations by the Obama Administration and the State Department with Turkey and Armenian.

“I want to be considerate of those efforts,” he said.

October 10, the two countries signed an agreement which, if ratified by their parliaments, will establish diplomatic relations, open the border that has been closed since 1993 between the nations and establish committees to work on bilateral issues, including a committee of historians to study the massacres.

Colorado American-Armenians are adamant that the United States affirm the Armenian Genocide.

“Given Turkey’s centuries-old state sponsored campaign of denial, we take umbrage with those who appear complicit in perpetuating genocide denial today,” said Pamela Barsam Brown, founder of the Rocky Mountain Hye Advocates, in an interview November 3. “In order for the scars of genocide to heal, there must be an unequivocal affirmation of this first genocide of the 20th Century… It is only natural, as Americans, that we should turn to our own government to support our effort to honor our lost families. House Resolution 252 is a historical acknowledgement of the Armenian genocide and one that embodies the essence of America and its humane moral compass.”

Barsam Brown, co-editor with Vi Bashian Cooper of a statewide e-newsletter “to inform and expand the advocacy efforts of Colorado American Armenians,” said their primary objective is to seek 100 percent cosponsorship of the resolution by the Colorado delegation in Congress. Perlmutter’s decision not to cosponsor, combined with his receipt of Raytheon and Northrop Grumman contributions, has raised a red flag in the American Armenian community.

“Mr. Perlmutter’s acceptance of these campaign contributions at a time when he has stepped away from an almost decade-long position of co-sponsoring Armenian genocide resolutions has caused concern in our community,” Barsam Brown said. “We respectfully urge the congressman to donate these particular campaign contributions to charity to set aside any appearance of impropriety. Of course, we would also respectfully urge Mr. Perlmutter to join [Colorado Democratic Representatives Diana] DeGette, [Jared] Polis and [John] Salazar in co-sponsoring H.Res. 252.

Perlmutter, when contacted for comment, issued a statement denying influence by lobbyists.

“I continue to be a proud member of the Congressional Armenian Caucus and support the continued diplomatic developments between turkey and Armenia,” he said October 29.  “I applaud the Obama Administration in helping to break this diplomatic logjam. My support of legislation does not hinge on whether or no I co-sponsor a bill and I will support H.Res. 252 should it go to the House floor for a vote. No individual or group has asked me to not support H.Res. 252.”

Barsam Brown notes the Genocide resolution has implications well beyond Armenia.

“Of importance to all Americans is that a failure to recognize empowers future despots to carry out this ultimate crime against humanity,” she said. “Elie Wiesel states that genocide denial is the last phase of genocide. It is not the victims who should pay the price, but the perpetrators and their accomplices. Genocide continues today, in part, as a result of this continued Armenian genocide denial campaign. It is a reflection of the reluctance of our elected representatives to stop genocide as it unfolds.”

“We should all be reminded of Adolf Hitler, who in a [1939] speech to German troops just prior to invading Poland, declared,” who, after all, remembers the annihilation of the Armenians?” And the Holocaust followed.