WASHINGTON, DC (RFE/RL) — A former U.S. congressman has resigned as chairman of a central player in the multimillion-dollar Azerbaijani lobbying effort to court American support for the ex-Soviet republic’s authoritarian government, saying he has not been paid for his services “in a year.”
Former U.S. Representative Dan Burton (Republican-Indiana) this week resigned from the Azerbaijan America Alliance, a group founded by tycoon Anar Mammadov, son of the oil-rich Caucasus nation’s transport minister, that has paid U.S. lobbyists more than $12 million since 2011.
“As I have not heard from you or Anar, and have not been paid for a year, please consider this e-mail as a letter of resignation as Chairman of the Azerbaijan American Alliance,” Burton wrote in a March 1 e-mail to James Fabiani, whose Washington-based firm lobbies for the group in the United States. The e-mail was seen by RFE/RL.
Fabiani did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment or to a voicemail left with his office, and no one answered the phone at the number listed on the Azerbaijan America Alliance’s website.
Mammadov, a recent business partner of U.S. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump for the construction of a 33-floor, sail-shaped luxury hotel in Baku, did not respond to a Facebook message, and no one answered the phone at the number listed on his website.
Burton’s resignation follows months of speculation about the fate of the Azerbaijan America Alliance, a prominent pillar of a broader Azerbaijani lobbying campaign in the United States to portray Azerbaijan as a stable energy and security partner for the West. The lobby involves both private and state money.
Over the past five years, the Azerbaijan America Alliance has poured a total of $12.3 million into U.S. lobbying efforts, according to the public-interest website Opensecrets.org, having wined and dined Washington’s elite and pushed Baku’s interests in meetings with senior members of Congress.