Amaris Cockfield was briefly registered to work on behalf of the Turkish-U.S. Business Council. Later, she joined the Adams administration — and her father, Rev. Al Cockfield, formed a political action committee that paid the Adams fundraiser recently raided by the FBI.

By George Joseph

Nov 29 1:48pm EST

A year before joining the Mayor’s Office, one of Eric Adams’ press secretaries registered as a foreign agent for a trade group with close ties to the regime of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In January of 2021, while working as an associate for Mercury Public Affairs, Amaris Cockfield filed with the U.S. Department of Justice to do public relations on behalf of the Turkish-U.S. Business Council (TAIK), a trade organization whose chairman has worked closely with the country’s authoritarian leader and whose parent organization operates under the oversight of the Turkish Ministry of Trade.

The mayor’s ties to Erdogan’s government broke into public view earlier this month after the FBI raided the home of Brianna Suggs, Adams’ chief fundraiser, as part of a federal probe into whether the 2021 campaign conspired with the Turkish government to funnel illegal donations to the campaign. 

In addition to being paid by the Adams campaign, Suggs’ company was paid about $100,000 by a political action committee, Striving for a Better New York, run by Cockfield’s father, Rev. Al Cockfield II.

As THE CITY previously reported, the Adams 2021 campaign accepted donations from officers of a foundation incorporated by Erdogan’s son and from employees of a Turkish-American construction firm, which is now under federal investigation. The Adams campaign also returned several donations from employees of a Turkish-owned university in Washington, D.C., also being examined as part of the federal probe.

Neither Adams nor Cockfield have been accused of any crimes as part of the federal probe.

Amaris Cockfield and Mercury Public Affairs declined to provide statements to THE CITY about what work, if any, she did for  the Turkish-U.S. Business Council. Sources who worked with her at the firm say she was an employee who formulated talking points and news clipping reports to support Mercury’s work for clients. 

“She was a junior staffer, so she wasn’t in a position to deal with clients,” said one former associate, who worked with Cockfield during her time at Mercury. 

Federal disclosures indicate that Mercury took dozens of actions on behalf of the Turkish-U.S. Business Council while Cockfield was on the account, from emailing journalists to requesting meetings with members of Congress, but her name is not attached to any of them.

But a social media post from that period points to her awareness of the Turkish group. On January 23, 2021, three days before she registered as a foreign agent, Cockfield reposted a tweet by the deputy secretary general of the Turkish-U.S. Business Council’s parent organization, praising a Washington Post article about a documentary profiling the founders of Atlantic Records as “two famed members of Turkey’s diaspora community.” The same tweet was also included by Mercury in federal disclosures documenting their work for the council.

The same day, Cockfield’s father also shared the article on Twitter, the social media site now called X, calling it a “Great Piece!”. 

About a month later, an attorney for Mercury Public Affairs amended the firm’s registration statement saying that Cockfield, then 27, had “ceased performing” any registrable activities as a foreign agent. 

The Turkish business group was the only foreign entity Cockfield registered to act on behalf of during her two-and-a-half years at Mercury. 

The Mayor’s Office declined to comment about whether the office or the mayor knew about Cockfield’s previous registration as a foreign agent on behalf of the Turkish-U.S. Business Council.

PAC Entangled in Federal Turkey Probe

In September 2021, with Adams all but assured victory in the mayoral race, his friend Rev. Al Cockfield registered Striving for a Better New York with the city Campaign Finance Board and proceeded to raise more than a million dollars.

Cockfield declared to Politico that he’d founded the committee to back centrist political candidates, but it also served as an outlet for donors to demonstrate their loyalty to the soon-to-be-mayor. 

Between October 2021 and June 2023, Rev. Cockfield paid himself just over $150,000 from the PAC and at least $100,000 to Suggs’s firm.

Earlier this month, the FBI raided Suggs’ home in Crown Heights with a search warrant that sought documents related to the campaign’s interactions with the Turkish government and financial records for Suggs and entities associated with her.

Rev. Cockfield did not respond to questions from THE CITY.

Mercury’s Evolving Relationship with Turkey

Mercury Public Affairs’ work on behalf of Turkey and Turkish organizations preceded Amaris Cockfield’s brief tenure at the firm — and spurred controversy.

In 2020 Mercury received $250,000 from the Turkish embassy and another $600,000 from the Turkish-U.S. Business Council for “public relations and business diplomacy services.”

But that October, the company ended its embassy contract after Armenian Americans publicly attacked Mercury for working with Erdogan’s regime, which has long denied the Armenian genocide and has backed Azerbaijan’s armed campaign targeting the ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The firm, however, retained its contract with the Turkish-U.S. Business Council, a group whose parent organization the Turkish government placed under its oversight in 2014.

In federal filings, Mercury asserted the business group was not controlled or directed by Erdogan’s regime. Nonetheless, its disclosure reports show the business group frequently promoted events with Erdogan and Turkish government ministers from Erdogan’s party.

“The fact that Mercury at the time registered with FARA points to their desire to be transparent,” said the former associate of Cockfield’s. 

In 2021, the year Cockfield was briefly on the account, the public relations firm generated more than $600,000 in fees and expenses from the Turkish-U.S. Business Council. 
In 2022, O’Dwyers, a PR news site, reported that the Turkish-U.S. Business Council signed a contract with a new lobbying firm, Actum, a company founded by former Mercury partners.

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