19 February 2009

2747) ANCA Accused Of Lobbying Violations

18 Feb 2009 // WASHINGTON - A high-profile ethics organization on Wednesday asked federal agencies to investigate the Armenian National Committee of America for alleged campaign finance and lobbying violations.

Related Documents
* 2/18/2009 - ANCA Complaint // 1.8 mb
* 2/18/2009 - ANCA Complaint Exhibits // 6.4 mb

In a seven-page complaint, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington . .
asserts the Armenian-American group failed to register either as a domestic lobbying group or as a foreign agent despite its political work and its close ties to an Armenian political party.

By Michael Doyle, Fresno Bee, February 18, 2009

The Armenian National Committee of America is one of the country's most prominent ethnic organizations, and has worked closely with San Joaquin Valley lawmakers on Armenian genocide commemorative resolutions.

"We're not saying they should be out of business," said Melanie Sloan, a former federal prosecutor who heads the private Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "We're saying there are laws, and they should be following them."

Sloan attached 161 pages of exhibits in support of the allegations.

Armenian National Committee of America officials denounced the charges as unfounded.

"We've taken a preliminary look at [the] allegations, and they are without merit and full of inaccuracies and misrepresentations," ANCA Communications Director Elizabeth Chouldjian said.

Chouldjian declined to undertake a point-by-point rebuttal of the complaint, but she said "the real story is why this is being brought up now." She noted the complaint was filed about two months before the annual April 24 Armenian genocide commemoration; she did not elaborate on a potential motive for the complaint's timing.

The Armenian National Committee of America describes itself on its web site as "the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots political organization." It is active in regions with large Armenian-American populations, including New Jersey, Florida and California.

Currently, Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, and other ANCA allies are rallying renewed support for an Armenian genocide resolution that collapsed last Congress. Under presidents of both parties, the Pentagon and State Department have opposed the resolution as an insult to Turkey, which denies that mass deaths between 1915 and 1923 amounted to a genocide.

"Circumstantial evidence indicates that ANCA and its current or former executive directors … have lobbied Congress and the executive branch heavily with regard to perennial congressional Armenian genocide resolutions," the complaint states.

The complaint cites interviews and press releases, in which ANCA leaders tout their efforts to sway Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., among others.

The Armenian National Committee of America has not registered as a lobbyist with either the House or Senate. Failure to register can be a felony offense, though Sloan said potential problems are often resolved simply by registering after the fact.

The Armenian Assembly of America, the nation's other prominent Armenian-American organization, is registered and reported spending $182,000 on lobbying last year.

"These are the rules, and everybody has to follow them," Sloan said.

The complaint asks the Internal Revenue Service to review potential tax violations and the Justice Department to open a criminal probe. The complaint also asks the House and Senate to open "companion inquiries" into the lobbying allegations.

Citing press accounts, a U.S. embassy study and the research of Heather Gregg, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, the complaint contends ANCA is "an arm" of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. The latter is a political party that is part of Armenia's ruling coalition.


Agents of foreign political parties are required to register with the Justice Department. ANCA can endorse political candidates, as a group organized under section 501 (c)(4) of the federal tax code. The affiliated ANCA-Western Region, based in Glendale, cannot because it is a 501 (c)(3) organization. The complaint alleges the Western Region office nonetheless participated in the national organization's candidate endorsements, in part by sharing a Web site.

Sloan said the complaint arose from a tip received late last year.

Sloan's non-profit, six-year-old ethics group claims no partisan affiliation and has previously filed ethics complaints about both Democratic and Republican lawmakers. Its past targets have ranged from former Tracy area GOP congressman Richard Pombo to former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Source: www.citizensforethics.org/node/37336

CREW (Citizens For Responsibility And Ethics In Washington) Files Complaint Against Armenian National Committee Of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) And The ANCA Endowment Fund
18 Feb 2009 // Washington, D.C. – Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Department of Justice, the Internal Revenue Service, the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate urging an investigation into whether the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region (ANCA-WR) and the ANCA Endowment Fund violated their status as charitable organizations, the Foreign Agents Registration Act and the Lobbying Disclosure Act.

Both ANCA-WR and the ANCA Endowment Fund, which share offices and a common website, have participated in political campaigns in violation of federal tax law, which specifically bars groups organized under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code from participating in political campaigns. Nevertheless, on October 24, 2008, ANCA announced its endorsements of 15 candidates for the United States Senate and 211 candidates for the United States House of Representatives and published these endorsements on its shared website with ANCA-WR: www.anca.org [0]. ANCA also endorsed the Obama-Biden ticket for the presidency.

The Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”) requires agents of foreign political parties to register with the Department of Justice, periodically report and describe their activities aimed at influencing policies of the United States and to disclose the dissemination of information, including testimony before Congress.

ANCA is closely associated with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), a self-described political party, which is part of the ruling coalition government in the Republic of Armenia. In 2005, the then-Chairman of the Central Committee of the ARF for the Eastern Region of the United States explained that the ARF’s political efforts are conducted through the ANCA offices in Washington. In 2006, the U.S. embassy in Yerevan prepared a study on the Armenian-American community and found, “the ARF’s U.S.-based political advocacy arm is the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). ANCA is the principal political spokesperson for ARF policies in the United States.” Nevertheless, ANCA has never registered under FARA nor followed its disclosure requirements.

The Lobbying Disclosure Act requires lobbyists to file disclosure reports with the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House. In fact, ANCA publicly has claimed to lobby on several occasions, taking credit for persuading nine members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to push the nominee for ambassador to Armenia to clarify U.S. policy on the Armenian genocide debate, persuading lawmakers to block U.S. financing for a railway that would have linked Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan, but not Armenia, and seeking passage of 1992 legislation excluding Azerbaijan from a list of former Soviet republics available for U.S. aid.

Melanie Sloan, CREW’s executive director said, “The evidence demonstrates that ANCA has failed to comply with federal tax laws, foreign registration laws and lobbying rules. While ANCA has legitimate interests in U.S. policies, it must be held to the same standard as other organizations that participate in American political policy debates. Therefore, CREW urges the Department of Justice, the Internal Revenue Service, the Secretary of the Senate, and the Clerk of the House to open investigations into possible wrongdoing by ANCA.”

Source : www.citizensforethics.org/node/37334

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