A lobbying battle royal is shaping up in Washington over what could be one of the decade's biggest overseas contracts for a U.S. defense firm. Bell Helicopter Textron is negotiating the final details of a $4 billion deal to sell 145 King Cobra attack choppers to Turkey. The Clinton Administration and Congress must approve the sale. Human-rights groups plus Greek and Armenian lobbies are mobilizing against it. Turkey has a human-rights record that remains "among the worst in the world," says Representative JOHN PORTER, an Illinois Republican, and has used U.S. weapons to attack Kurds in the southeast. To help the deal along, the Turkish embassy in Washington has hired top Capitol Hill lobbyists, at a hefty $1.8 million and Textron Inc., Bell's parent company, has put $117,800 into G.O.P. and Democratic coffers for this year's races.
Clinton is inclined to okay the export to a NATO ally. But there's a snag. Two years ago, the Administration promised that it would not approve the sale unless Turkey made "significant progress" on seven human-rights benchmarks. State Department reports reveal that Turkey still flunks them all. Administration aides are looking for ways to get out of the promise, but "we're going to hold them to it," says Amnesty International's Maureen Greenwood.
--By Douglas Waller/Washington