State Hears "Blood Money" Case


By Jon Craig • • September 3, 2009

COLUMBUS - If lawyers for U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt sought to prove that her congressional opponent, David Krikorian, wasn't precise when he claimed the Republican took campaign money directly from the Turkish government they did a decent job Thursday.

But if they hoped the controversy over taking $30,000 in campaign "blood money to deny the genocide of Christian Armenians by Muslin Turks" during World War I will go away soon, they failed miserably.

Either way, Schmidt's "false statements" complaints against Krikorian remain unresolved before the Ohio Elections Commission. Five commission members heard six hours of testimony and legal debate before adjourning the case until Oct. 1.

California attorney Mark Geragos - calling himself a "stealth Armenian" whose family name was shortened from Geragosian - used e-mails and other documents to show how campaign money was solicited - and possibly laundered - via lobbyists, Turkish businessmen and other "registered foreign agents" of Turkey.

Geragos' team of lawyers flipped through an inch-thick file of exhibits linking Turkish political action committees to Turkish coalitions, corporations, a legal defense fund headed by one of Schmidt's lawyers and various members of Congress.

Krikorian's lawyers argued that the Ohio commission shouldn't have jurisdiction over federal elections, much less make their client prove the complex money trail.

As a free-speech issue, Geragos said, Krikorian merely has to prove he was diligent and not reckless in claiming Schmidt took tainted Turkish contributions.

But Donald Brey and Bruce Fein, attorneys for Schmidt, said Krikorian was reckless and should have been able to distinguish between campaign contributions from Turkish people and PACs versus money directly from the Turkish government - which would be illegal.

"I called it 'blood money,'" Krikorian testified of his 2008 campaign claims. "I believe that it is. I stand by everything that I wrote in the last election."

Schmidt testified that she has "never received money from a foreign government including the government of Turkey. ... I was not raising money from the Turkish government."

If a foreign government tried to give her money, Schmidt said, "I would not take it. It would be illegal. I would turn their action in" to the FBI or House Ethics Committee.

Krikorian's defense still seeks to cross-examine Barry Bennett, Schmidt's chief of staff, and Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI translator-turned-whistleblower.

In her four-hour deposition Aug. 8, Edmonds described Turkish attempts to bribe and blackmail other members of Congress. Edmonds is out of the country, so Krikorian will get another chance to call her as a witness on Oct. 1.

Krikorian ran as an independent against Schmidt for the 2nd Congressional District in 2008 and plans to try again next year as a Democratic candidate.