Azerbaijan Is A Magnet For Corruption, So Of Course It Attracted Trump... And Henry Cuellar

Cuellar with his amigo, the crooked ambassador from azerbaijan

Just before Hillary Clinton somehow managed to lose an election to a 2-bit con-man from New York, I spent some time in Azerbaijan, a lovely country, but one of the most corrupt places on earth. There's lots of money sloshing around from the oil industry, so it is no surprise that criminal elements from around the world have made it a regular destination, including the Trump family of course. When I went to visit Trump Tower in Baku it had already failed and was shut down. Shortly after, Trump and his partners burned it down to collect insurance money. The latest scumbag to be associated with Azerbaijan is the co-chair of the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus, corrupt Blue Dog Henry Cuellar (TX).

Cuellar has been in Congress since 2005 and before that served in the Texas state legislature for 14 years. Even when he was a state legislator, he was always known as the Republicans' favorite Democrat. How much did Texas Republicans love him? Rick Perry appointed him Secretary of State in 2001. Today he is the single most conservative Democrat in Congress,a position formerly held by Kyrsten Sinema. An aside: Blue America has endorsed Jessica Cisneros for the south Texas seat Cuellar holds and you can contribute to her campaign here. He is rabidly anti-Choice, anti-union and one of the only House Democrats to against marijuana decriminalization and worked with GOP front group No Labels to derail Build Back Better. Last cycle he barely won the low-turnout primary:

  • Henry Cuellar- 38,834 (51.8%)

  • Jessica Cisneros- 36,144 (48.2%)

AOC endorsed her in 2020 and endorsed her again yesterday. Last cycle, Jessica raised $1.9 million. He spent around $3.5 million and has been scrambling for money-- mostly from his corporate and conservative allies-- ever since. As of his last FEC filing, he had $2,215,866 on hand, much of it from oil and gas companies, Wall Street and lobbyists. Reporting for The Intercept yesterday, Sara Sirota wrote that one of Cuellar's top advisors, former campaign manager Colin Strother, runs the very shady virulent anti-Choice Voter Education Foundation. There seem to be very lax boundaries between Cuellar's campaign and the activities-- and finances-- of Strother's "Foundation."

After his Laredo home and office were raided by the FBI's Public Integrity department yesterday, people are wondering how much money he has illegally taken from Azerbaijan. He's known to be close with organized crime figure Elin Suleymanov, the Azerbaijani ambassador to the U.S.

The DC correspondent for the Laredo Morning Times reported this morning that "Agents spent more than four hours at his home and loaded large bags, plastic bins and a computer into a federal vehicle before leaving around 11 p.m."

This photo above is Ivanka, who was one of the key operatives in the building of the dismally failed Trump Tower in a middle of nowhere, inaccessible part of Baku. One of Trump's investors was Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Another partner was Ziya Mammadov, one of Azerbaijan's most notoriously corrupt public officials (Transportation Minister) and a relative of dictator Ilham Aliyev, son of former dictator Heydar Aliyev.

UPDATE: Follow The Oily Money

This afternoon, ace investigative journalists Ryan Grim and Lee Fang reported in 2013 Cuellar and his wife were treated to a trip to Turkey and Azerbaijan (to the one of around $20,000) courtesy of the Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians. The unbelievably lenient House Ethics Committee ok-ed the blatant bribe. "Kemal Oksuz [a Cuellar campaign donor], listed as Turquoise Council president, told the Ethics Committee that no foreign money paid for the trip," an obvious lie.

In 2018, Oksuz pleaded guilty to concealing the fact that a separate congressional trip in May 2013 to Azerbaijan had been funded by a foreign government; he was sentenced in 2019. Oksuz had claimed that the trip in question was paid for by the Turquoise Council and the Assembly of the Friends of Azerbaijan, both of which purport to promote regional and transnational cooperation. In truth, the trip was paid for by SOCAR, the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic, a wholly owned national oil and gas company.
Court documents show that Oksuz wired $750,000 from SOCAR in order to organize travel for 10 House members and their staff to Azerbaijan. (Cuellar did not go on this second trip.) Prior to this deposit, the Assembly of the Friends of Azerbaijan, one of the nonprofits involved in the travel scheme, had only $283.15 in its checking account.
The Assembly of the Friends of Azerbaijan was founded shortly after Cuellar’s January trip, but Oksuz served as head of both, and as the Office of Congressional Ethics later reported, “Records suggest that this individual used the entities interchangeably.” And Cuellar’s itinerary for the January 2013 trip, on file with the Ethics Committee, shows a “briefing” at SOCAR and, later that evening, “dinner with SOCAR Executive Team.”
The relationship bore fruit. In July 2013, Cuellar spoke at a Washington, D.C., reception in honor of SOCAR, along with its president, Rovnag Abdullayev, to highlight the importance of a pipeline to deliver natural gas to Europe.
That pipeline and related projects are pivotal to the national interests of Azerbaijan. SOCAR is the largest company and source of tax revenue in Azerbaijan. The company has embarked on ambitious plans to expand its international footprint, including a network of pipelines that stretch through multiple countries to deliver gas into Europe. The so-called Southern Gas Corridor, built by SOCAR in partnership with BP and other Western energy giants, required an investment of over $45 billion.
Later that year, in September 2013, Cuellar and other lawmakers sponsored a resolution in Congress expressing support for Azerbaijan’s Southern Gas Corridor project, stating that it was in the “U.S. national interest” to support construction and work closely with the governments of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and others in the region to have the pipeline completed. The resolution was adopted by the House Foreign Affairs Committee by unanimous consent. In 2020, a portion of the pipeline across the Adriatic Sea began commercial operations to deliver gas from Azerbaijan to Italy.
...Cuellar, a co-chair of the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus, continued to promote Azerbaijan’s interests. Following the devastating Armenia-Azerbaijan War in 2020, fought over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, Cuellar petitioned his congressional colleagues to ensure that any humanitarian aid for the conflict would be “provided through the Government of Azerbaijan or U.N. organizations” and not given directly to Armenia.
A letter making the funding request, signed by Cuellar, was circulated by the BGR Group, a lobbying firm that represents the Azerbaijani Embassy, according to records on file with the Department of Justice.
Azerbaijan has been caught up in repeated scandals around the world in which it has been probed for attempting to bribe legislators. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe released a report in 2018 saying that its former members had engaged in “corruptive activities” with the Azerbaijan government. The German Bundestag last year also backed a corruption probe, according to Transparency International, after “the Azerbaijani Laundromat investigation showed how a network of slush funds financed such ‘caviar diplomacy’ through opaque payments to politicians across Europe.”
The gifts and payments to European policymakers were made in part to shape support for the same Azerbaijani oil and gas interests that had financed the 2013 congressional junket. “Azerbaijan is particularly keen to present a positive image in Europe because it needs significant European support for its flagship project-- the Southern Gas Corridor-- despite the regime’s serial human rights abuses, systemic corruption and election rigging,” noted a group of human rights watchdogs, including Platform and Bank Watch, commenting on the scandal.