“A lot of people have bought a lot of cottages and fishing boats and led their grandchildren through college by lying about Armenia and covering Azerbaijan,” he said.
The Armenian National Committee and another group, the Armenian Assembly in America, sought to put pressure on Mercury by holding protests outside its offices in Washington and Los Angeles and urged Mercury’s clients to cut ties with the company if it continued to represent Turkey.
The campaign had an effect. Kathryn Barger, chairwoman of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, and Hilda Solis, a supervisor and former Labor secretary of the Obama administration, wrote to Mercury on Wednesday urging the company to “immediately sever business ties with the Republic of Turkey.”
California State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and 16 other state legislators told Mercury on Thursday that they would not engage with the company as long as it represented Turkey. And the Los Angeles Community College District announced to Mercury that it would “begin enforcing the 30-day termination clause” in its contract if Turkey remained a client.
Mercury declined to comment. The Turkish Embassy did not respond to a request for comment.
The Armenian press campaign is coming as Washington has begun to focus on the fighting.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-California) introduced a resolution earlier this month condemning the role of Azerbaijan and Turkey in the conflict, which has drawn 67 co-sponsors. And Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo met every Friday separately with Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov in an attempt to end the hostilities.
The effort is reminiscent of the push to persuade Washington lobbyists representing the Saudi government to cut ties with the kingdom in 2018 after Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The Washington Post, in which Khashoggi had been a contributing opinion writer, threatened to prevent two lobbyists from writing columns for the paper unless their firms stopped working for Saudi Arabia.
The pressure eventually led five lobbying companies to sever ties with the kingdom.
Turkey and Azerbaijan are not deprived of lobbying now without Mercury, which Turkey hired in January on a contract scheduled to run through the end of the year, according to a copy submitted to the Ministry of Justice. The company was tasked with helping to organize events that enabled Turkey to “connect with public policy stakeholders” and to advise the Turkish government on media matters.
Turkey also retains lobbying companies Capitol Counsel and Greenberg Traurig, while the government of Azerbaijan retains the BGR group, according to information posts. The countries’ lobbyists include former reps. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.), Charles Boustany (R-La.), Randy Forbes (R-Va.) And Albert Wynn (D-Ma.).
Meanwhile, the Armenian government, meanwhile, hired former Senate leader Bob Dole last month to help Washington.
Another former legislator, former rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.) Of the Livingston Group, stopped representing the government of Azerbaijan last week, according to an archive, although it is unclear whether Livingston actually lobbied for the country.
Asmar Yusifzada, a spokesman for the Azerbaijani embassy in Washington, wrote in an email to POLITICO that the country had not had contact with Livingston for more than a decade.
Livingston did not respond to a request for comment. Capitol Counsel and Greenberg Traurig declined to comment.
Hamparian said he planned to increase pressure on the BGR Group now that Mercury has capitulated. But the BGR could be a tougher target: The company said in a statement that it “intends to continue its representation of Azerbaijan.”