US Lawmakers Stop Accepting Privately-Funded Turkey Trips


Number of trips fall from hundreds to 1 after congressional probe, FBI investigation into Gulen-linked groups

U.S. lawmakers have abandoned privately funded trips to Turkey after a congressional investigation found misconduct in previous trips, a report said Wednesday.No member of Congress “have accepted privately sponsored trip to Turkey since May 2015, with the exception of one congressman who made an August trip sponsored by a Norwegian group,” according to an article by the USA Today newspaper.

Last year, an ethic investigation into lawmakers’ trips to Turkey found misconduct by sponsors linked to the Gulen movement, a secretive religious group led by U.S.-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen.

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The probe by the Office of Congressional Ethics revealed that Gulen-linked organizations were hiding the true source of funding for nearly 200 of the trips.

According to the data the daily collected, the number of hundreds of privately funded trips to Turkey in 2010 fell to just one by the second half of 2015.

But U.S. government-sponsored trips there reported by Congress fell slightly from 110 in 2013 to 92 in 2015.

The Gulen movement runs a network of schools and commercial enterprises in Turkey and around the world.

Besides the congressional probe, an FBI investigation into charter schools linked to the group stemming from accusations of financial corruption, may have triggered lawmakers’ unwillingness to the Gulen-sponsored trips.

A row between the movement and the Turkish government erupted in 2013 after a failed attempt by the group to form a quasi-state via a clandestine group of Turkish bureaucrats and senior officials. Since then, Gulen-linked organizations have lobbied against Ankara in Washington.

The Turkish National Security Council in late 2014 classified the group as a terrorist organization for creating an illegal structure embedded in the country’s institutions, including the judiciary and the police, in an attempt to overthrow the government.