Earlier today, disgraced United States Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) had spokesman Michael Soliman issue a weirdly worded attack (published in InsiderNJ.com) accusing American "millionaires" (plural) of "engaging in sleazy personal attacks" against his boss. Hey, should a guy who works for a firm that shills for Islamist strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey really be attacking Americans -- regardless of their income levels?
That's right. And why is a United States Senator using, as a spokesman, a political operative in an international firm representing the interests of the Turkish government? This firm itself is a subsidiary of an even larger international firm that handles the image-making for Russian President Vladimir Putin, receiving credit for, among other accomplishments, getting Putin's face on the cover of Time magazine -- as the "Person of the Year" for 2007.
The firm is called Mercury Public Affairs. Michael Soliman joined Mercury in 2013 and became a partner two years ago. Mercury Public Affairs has 11 partners and over 160 employees. Omnicom purchased Mercury in 2003.
Michael Soliman is one of eleven Partners at Mercury, working out of the New Jersey and DC offices. His extensive knowledge and lifetime experience on the region’s politics, government relations, and strategic communications proves to be an invaluable resource to clients throughout the entire Northeast.
Strategic advisor to Congressman-elect Josh Gottheimer’s successful campaign against a 14 year incumbent
Lead strategist for U.S. Senator Cory Booker’s successful 2014 Senate campaign
Served as Senator Robert Menendez’s State Director and New Jersey Chief of Staff since 2007
Managed Senator Menendez’s successful re-election campaign in 2012
District Director for U.S. Congressman Steve Rothman
Advised the campaigns of the late Senator Frank Lautenberg, former Governor Jon Corzine, and Congressman Bill Pascrell
Worked on campaigns of various Democratic officials, including Mayor Glenn Cunningham of Jersey City and State Senator Bob Gordon
Frequent guest lecturer at academic institutions including St. Peter’s University and the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics
Appeared on the PolitickerNJ Power List for the past 9 years
Selected as an influencer by Campaigns & Elections Magazine
St. Peter’s University, Political Science (BA)
Bloustein School at Rutgers University (MPP)
Mercury Public Affairs has 18 offices worldwide -- including London; Mexico City; Washington, DC; New York; and Westfield, New Jersey. The New Jersey office of Mercury includes a satellite office in Trenton.
In January 2015, Michael Soliman registered with the United States Justice Department, pursuant to the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as a person representing the Embassy of the State of Qatar. You must have read about Qatar in the news...Amnesty International has accused Qatar of being complicit in human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Yes, slavery. In fact, the United Nations recently gave Qatar one year "to end migrant worker slavery" or face an international investigation.
Qatar is just one of freedom's garden spots represented by Mercury. Remember the controversy in Uganda, when the President of that country decided that homosexuality was a crime that should be punishable by death? Well, the law he wanted passed was "moderated" in December 2013, substituting life imprisonment for the death penalty. In 2015, Mercury was brought on to provide public relations, lobbying, and media monitoring services with regards to the Office of the President and the Ugandan government in general on subjects beginning with "human rights" and ending with "good governance." For which the contract calls for Mercury to be compensated at the rate of $50,000 per month, with $150,000 up front.
Mercury also represents individuals. Folks like Khalid bin Saqr Al Qasimi, who in 2003 led an anti-American demonstration in which he personally burned an American flag. For its work, Mercury pocketed a $30,000 monthly retainer, plus expenses.
In January 2016, Mercury Public Affairs partner Morris Reid negotiated a contract with Amsterdam & Partners, an international law firm with offices in London and Washington, DC. The document is marked "confidential and privileged" but is public information under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. In August of last year, Amsterdam & Partners signed a contract with the Turkish Ambassador to the United States to provide legal services related to a "matter of importance" to the embassy. The government of Turkey pays Amsterdam a retainer of $50,000 a month.
While the contract stipulates that the greatest security and confidentiality be observed, under the terms of the contract between Amsterdam and Turkey, third parties may be hired "as the Firm and the Client agree in writing are necessary to further the Engagement." And so, in March of 2016, Amsterdam hired Mercury to perform work on behalf of the Turkish government for $20,000 a month -- above and beyond what was being paid to Amsterdam by Turkey. It is in the contract between Amsterdam & Partners and Mercury Public Affairs that we learn what all this cloak and dagger is in aid of.
The Amsterdam-Mercury contract references an "investigation into Fethullah Gulen and his organization in the United States." So who is Fethullah Gulen?
Gulen has been in the news since the attempted coup in Turkey in 2016. Gulen is a religious leader from Turkey, and a one-time political ally of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan is the increasingly authoritarian and Islamist President of Turkey. He has been repeatedly in the news for purging the judiciary, jailing journalists who write unflattering reports, and successfully intimidating the opposition. Erdogan had a law passed to allow the government to ban websites and he has promised to "rip out the roots" of Twitter. He has even attempted to censor speech in other nations, recently demanding that Germany prosecute a poet who had written some verse critical of Erdogan.
Erdogan and Gulen had a falling out over allegations of political corruption by Erdogan in 2013. Gulen's books were banned. First, he was indicted on charges that a Turkish judge threw out, but then was indicted a few months later for treasonable offenses that carried the death penalty. Gulen fled Turkey, came to the United States, and was convicted in absentia. According to Wikipedia, Gulen was one of the first Muslim leaders to condemn the attacks on September 11, 2001, writing a "condemnation article" in the Washington Post, the next day. He wrote: "A Muslim cannot be a terrorist, nor can a terrorist be a true Muslim."
The government of Turkish strongman Erdogan has attempted to extradite Gulen back to Turkey to face punishment, but the government of the United States hasn't cooperated. In the hours after the coup attempt, Erdogan was quick to blame Gulen, while Gulen put forward the theory that Erdogan had staged the coup himself in order to consolidate power.
The Associated Press identified Amsterdam & Partners (the firm Mercury is working for) as "lawyer(s) for the Turkish government" and quoted Robert Amsterdam: "There are indications of direct involvement (in the coup attempt) by Fethullah Gulen." Amsterdam added that he and his firm "have attempted repeatedly to warn the U.S. government of the threat posed (by Gulen)." Amsterdam said that "according to Turkish intelligence sources, there are signs that Gulen is working closely with certain members of military leadership against the elected civilian government."
Why does Mercury want to be a part of extraditing a moderate cleric to satisfy the rage of an Islamist dictator? The close relationships with powerful figures in American politics that many of Mercury's partners and employees enjoy is a matter for deep concern. Given who their clients are and the relationship they have with them, shouldn't a client like Turkey's Erdogan be out-of-bounds?
Wouldn't it be better if American political operatives stuck with helping to elect the best candidates to serve the American people? With all this money from foreign powers floating around, at what point does a political advisor to a United States Senator find himself in an existential conflict of interest?