Inside Bob Casey’s Troubling Relationship with Erdogan’s Best Friend in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Murat Güzel, a prolific Democratic donor, credits Bob Casey with helping him get a start in politics. Casey’s wife, Terese, recently thanked Güzel for a $100,000 donation to another Pennsylvania committee.

Murat Güzel with Sen. Bob Casey and his wife, Terese (Murat Güzel/Facebook).
May 16, 2024

Murat Güzel is one of Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s closest allies in the United States.

A former board member of the Turkish American National Steering Committee alongside Erdogan’s cousin, Halil Mutlu, the Turkish-born Pennsylvania businessman has lobbied lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in support of the Erdogan regime, reported back to Erdogan family members, and defended the Turkish strongman when his bodyguards roughed up protesters outside the Turkish embassy in Washington, D.C., in 2017, arguing that the protesters "provoked the incident" and have been inaccurately portrayed as "peaceful."

Güzel's donations have overwhelmingly gone to Democrats—including New York City mayor Eric Adams, now mired in a foreign influence scandal tracing back to Turkish money, and the Democratic National Committee, to which Güzel has donated upwards of $200,000 and where he has served as co-chair of the Ethnic Coordinating Committee. In a magazine profile published this month, Güzel said plainly that his involvement in politics has taught him "how much an individual can accomplish in the U.S. political system."

"My leadership roles in the Democratic Party at the state and county levels have allowed me to contribute significantly to the party’s operations," he said.

But Güzel has a special relationship with Sen. Bob Casey (D.) and his family.

"It was Senator Bob Casey who asked me to be a delegate," Güzel, the owner of a Pennsylvania-based organic juice company, said of his role as a delegate to the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

And his controversial activities—which operate in a gray area of foreign influence operations—have not, seemingly, deterred his old friends from accepting his money: Güzel is now working with Casey’s wife, Terese, to raise money for Pennsylvania’s celebration of America’s 250th birthday in July 2026. Güzel has funneled more than $100,000 to the project and posed for a photograph with the Caseys at a Democratic Party event in November 2022.

"Let me add my thanks for your continued generosity of America 250PA and the important work we are doing," Terese Casey wrote to Güzel in May 2022 in her capacity as director of development for America250PA, a state organization established by the governor and legislature to help Pennsylvania mark America’s 250th birthday, according to an email obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. "I’m glad you’re part of this historic project!"

Over the years, Güzel has contributed over $20,000 to Bob Casey’s campaigns and related super PACs, federal records show. At the same time, he has emerged as a leading Erdogan ally amid the authoritarian ruler’s crackdown on opposition groups.

In addition to his work with the Turkish American National Steering Committee, Güzel cofounded and led the U.S. branch of MUSIAD USA, a "religious minded" group of Turkey’s Muslim business leaders that slammed "Israeli occupation forces and fanatical Jews." He also served on the board of trustees of a pro-Erdogan group, the Turkish Heritage Organization, in 2015. That same year, a think tank expert warned the Hillary Clinton campaign that the "Erdogan crew" would use the Turkish Heritage Organization "to make inroads via donations to Democratic candidates." Güzel was photographed numerous times with Clinton during the 2016 race and contributed more than $240,000 to her campaign effort, according to federal records.

Güzel’s foreign connections landed him at the center of FBI investigations, though he has never been charged with any lawbreaking. He was interviewed by the FBI and granted immunity in connection with the prosecution of another political fundraiser and prolific Casey donor, Imaad Zuberi, who was convicted in 2021 and sentenced to 12 years in prison for acting as an unregistered foreign agent for Turkey, among other crimes.

"Mr. Zuberi flouted federal laws that restrict foreign influences upon our government and prohibit injecting foreign money into our political campaigns," the U.S. attorney prosecuting the case said at the time of Zuberi’s conviction. "Today’s sentence, which also accounts for Mr. Zuberi’s attempt to obstruct an investigation into his felonious conduct, underscores the importance of our ongoing efforts to maintain transparency in U.S. elections and policy-making processes."

"Any time there is a case of Turkish political espionage in the U.S., Murat Güzel is not far away," said Benjamin Baird, who tracks foreign influence as director of Middle East Forum Action.

An attorney for Güzel disputed some aspects of Güzel's relationship with Casey, saying the businessman has only had one meeting with Casey, and that Güzel "has never worked for the Turkish government nor has he ever been paid by Turkey." The attorney, Kate Cassidy, said Güzel "must have misspoken" when he said Casey helped him become a DNC delegate.

"Murat Güzel is a first-generation Turkish-American who has built a multinational business and cares deeply about both his adopted nation, the United States and his birthplace, Turkey," Cassidy said. "Mr Güzel works tirelessly to improve trade relations between the two countries, which benefits both of his beloved nations."

A spokeswoman for Casey's campaign told the Free Beacon that the senator "has a long history of standing strong against Turkey’s human rights abuses and anti-Israel activity," and that he and his wife are known "for their integrity, ethics, and contributions to the Commonwealth." The spokeswoman did not address Casey's relationship with Güzel.

Güzel and other Erdogan allies launched the Turkish American National Steering Committee in 2016 with a goal of helping the "Turkish-American community to gain more effective representation in U.S. politics at the local and federal level" and "ensure that Turkey's strategic position is used in the U.S. at local and national levels."

The group has been a stalwart defender of Erdogan’s as he has tightened control of the Turkish government and civil society. Steering Committee officials were with Erdogan in May 2017 when Erdogan’s bodyguards attacked Armenian and Kurdish protesters outside the Turkish embassy in Washington, D.C.

While Güzel has contributed to Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2015, Democrats are the primary beneficiaries of his largesse.

He has donated $227,000 to the Democratic National Committee alone, landing him a spot on its Ethnic Coordinating Committee in 2016, and Casey and other Pennsylvania Democrats tapped him to contribute $100,000 to help bring the DNC convention to Philadelphia that year, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Güzel met with former president Barack Obama in the Oval Office in 2016, according to photos from a magazine profile of Güzel this month. He met with President Joe Biden after donating $2,800 to his campaign in 2019, according to campaign finance records 

Güzel has used his access to Democrats to advance Erdogan’s cause.

In November 2014, Güzel reported to Berat Albayrak, Erdogan’s son-in-law, and Bilal Erdogan, the strongman’s son, that he met with Rep. Matt Cartwright (D., Pa.) to inform him that he had received campaign donations from supporters of Fethullah Gülen, an Erdogan critic who lives in exile in Pennsylvania. Cartwright has confirmed he met with Güzel and returned the donations "out of abundance of caution" because of the concerns Güzel raised.

In 2018, Güzel told the website Turk of America that he attended the Democratic retreat in Martha’s Vineyard with Casey and others, where he said he discussed American-Turkish relations with the lawmakers.

"I believe the presence of Turks in decision making platforms in the USA will contribute significantly to both America’s democracy and world peace," he said after the retreat.

His private correspondence, however, has betrayed a different set of priorities. "To stand by Erdogan and do whatever we can against evil powers is not just an act of kindness," Güzel wrote to Albayrak in October 2014, according to emails released in a hack of Albayrak’s account, "but rather an Islamic obligation upon all of us."