As a member of Congress, Dick Gephardt often spoke passionately about the need for the United States to recognize as genocide the mass deaths of as many as 1.5 million Armenians under the Turkish government that began one century ago.
But as a lobbyist for Turkey since leaving Congress in 2005, Gephardt, a Democrat, has taken the opposite side. His behind-the-scenes work has been cited as a factor in the annual failure of Congress to recognize the Armenian genocide.
Justice Department records show that Gephardt’s lobbying firm has been paid more than $8 million since 2008 to fight the declaration and represent Turkey on other contentious issues, including repatriation of Christian holy sites seized over the last century in that Muslim nation.
Now, in the 100th-anniversary year of what Armenians refer to as Meds Yeghern — “great calamity” — two Armenian-American groups are pressuring Gephardt’s lobbying firm to drop Turkey as a client, and for companies to drop Gephardt as their lobbyist.
Gephardt, who declined to respond to repeated interview requests, has ignored the Armenian groups’ letters. Three companies have ended contracts with the Gephardt Group since the two Armenian-American groups launched a letter-writing campaign in January, although none publicly tied the decision to the letters.
Critics of the former congressman from St. Louis say he is just another example of the revolving door between electoral office and the lucrative lobbying business, where policy positions seem to change based on who’s paying the bill.In the 1988 campaign, Gephardt ran for president, and Al Gore attacked him for flip-flopping on nearly everything else: