Ex-U.S. Congressman Quits as Head of Azerbaijan Lobby Group

Brian Kenety
Former U.S. Representative Dan Burton this week resigned as head of a lobbying group founded by Azerbaijan tycoon Anar Mammadov to gain American support for country’s authoritarian government.
"As I have not heard from you or Anar, and have not been paid for a year, please consider this e-mail as a letter of resignation as Chairman of the Azerbaijan American Alliance," Burton wrote in a 1 March e-mail to James Fabiani, whose Washington-based firm lobbies for the group in the U.S., Radio Free Europe reported
Mammadov, whose father is the oil-rich Caucasus nation’s transport minister, has paid U.S. lobbyists more than $12 million since 2011 through his Azerbaijan America Alliance, which involves both private and state money,
“Burton’s resignation follows months of speculation about the fate of the Azerbaijan America Alliance, a prominent pillar of a broader Azerbaijani lobbying campaign in the United States to portray Azerbaijan as a stable energy and security partner for the West,” RFE reported.
In May 2012, the European Stability Initiative, a nonprofit research and policy institute, published a report titled “Caviar Diplomacy: How Azerbaijan Silenced the Council of Europe,” charging that Baku has plied PACE members with expensive gifts – from caviar to paid holidays – to win their support or silence. 
“Two Utah state lawmakers who took a paid trip to Azerbaijan [in 2013] praised the former Soviet republic's commitment to religious freedom, echoing sentiments frequently heard in U.S. state legislatures and disputed by a half-dozen prominent watchdog organizations,” the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
In a recent letter, six groups, including Human Rights Watch, urged European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to use her discussions with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev on a new Partnership Agreement to push Baku to address its human rights record. 
  • Over the past five years, the Azerbaijan America Alliance has poured a total of $12.3 million into U.S. lobbying efforts, according to the public-interest website opensecrets.org, RFE said
  • Trips for members of the U.S. Congress and their staffs were funded with money funneled to U.S.-based nonprofits by the nation's state oil company, the Washington Post reported.
  • Mammadov is also recent business partner of U.S. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump for the construction of a 33-floor luxury hotel in Baku shaped like a sail, RFE said.
"Transitions Online" (www.tol.org), March 3, 2016

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