US/Azerbaijan: Lobbyists Continue to Flout Travel Rules

In May of 2013, the government of Azerbaijan, via its State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR), injected $750,000 into an obscure Texas-based non-profit, the Assembly of the Friends of Azerbaijan (AFAZ).

The assembly then flipped the funds into a series of secondary non-profits – a constellation of US-based 501(c)(3) organizations scattered across America, all pushing Turkic interests.

A few weeks later, nine members of the US Congress touched down in Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, flown and feted by those very funds. And it was quite a gathering: sumptuous dinners, fireworks displays, gifts of hand-woven carpets, crystal tea sets, silk scarves, and DVDs praising the country’s president—all free of charge, and costing well in excess of the permissible limits of gifts to Congress.