POLITICAL FLIER HEADED TO COURT
By Jessica Wehrman
Dayton Daily News
11:06 PM Sunday, August 9, 2009
WASHINGTON – A bloody 1915 conflict has sparked political warfare
in the 2nd congressional district, where U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt
and Democrat David Krikorian are sparring about a flier Krikorian
distributed during the tail end of the 2008 political campaign.
The flier accused Schmidt, a member of the Turkish-American Relations
Caucus, of taking money from the Turkish government and Turkish
interests in exchange for her opposition to a congressional resolution
declaring the 1915 conflict between the two a genocide. Krikorian,
an Armenian-American whose own grandparents narrowly escaped the
bloodshed, supports the resolution. Earlier this year, Schmidt quietly
filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission, arguing that
the flier was based on false statements.
A trial is set for Sept. 3. Schmidt’s camp must prove that Krikorian’s
statements were false and that he knew they were false.
Krikorian argues that two political action committees that Schmidt’s
campaign has received money from – the Turkish American Heritage
PAC and Turkish Coalition USA – receive money directly from Turkish
interests. The PACs describe themselves instead as PACs honoring
Schmidt’s camp has hired a high-powered Washington, D.C. attorney,
Bruce Fein. Krikorian has his own: Mark Geragos, an Armenian-American
who has defended celebrities including Michael Jackson and Winona
For his part, Krikorian defends the fliers as a freedom of speech
issue, plain and simple. He doesn’t back away from his flier’s claim
that Schmidt accepted " blood money" to deny a genocide.
"There are no Turkish people who live in the second district," he
said. "Why is this woman doing this? She does this for the money."
But Bruce Pfaff, a spokesman for Schmidt said the issue isn’t one
of where one stands on Turkish-Armenian relations, but rather,
one of truth versus lies, and what part lies should play in a
campaign. Schmidt, he said, did not take money from Turkish interests
in exchange for her opposition to the resolution. "She obviously
believes atrocities were committed," he said, adding that she doesn’t
necessarily believe the bloodshed was planned by the government,
as international law demands it to be to be deemed a genocide.
Krikorian, who ran as an independent in 2008, said the issue is about
"This has to do with one of the absolute biggest issues we have in
our country – the flow of money from special interest organizations to
congressmen and senators in exchange for doing their bidding," he said.