National,  State

Two Florida Businessmen Arrested for Campaign Finance Violations

Since it concluded, many Americans have repeatedly called the 2016 Presidential election into question and have called for an official investigation into possible foreign interference of the election.

Now it seems that the likelihood of electoral misconduct being limited to only that election is decreasing.

Last Thursday, two known associates of Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney, were arrested and charged as a part of the ongoing campaign finance investigation.

The two businessmen, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, are Soviet-born American citizens and were charged with conspiracy, lying, and falsifying records. Additionally, they are accused of bypassing American campaign finance laws through a money laundering scheme.

Not only did they use a foreign national’s funds to illegally make campaign contributions, they also set up an energy company in Florida, Global Energy Producers, to obfuscate the true source of their funding.

In total, Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman raised and donated over $400,000 to various Republican campaigns. This support allowed them to meet with top Republican leadership including the President himself. 

 It also seems that some of the money donated came with strings attached.

For instance, a donation of several thousand dollars was given to an unnamed person for their “assistance in causing the US government to remove or recall the then-US ambassador to Ukraine” according to the 21-page indictment back in 2018.

These illicit donations coming to light have prompted many officeholders across the nation to question the sources of their campaign contributions. While left out of the official indictment, the state of Florida has not been left out of this controversy.

Sen. Rick Scott’s campaign received slightly more than $20,000 from Mr. Fruman. Likewise, Gov. DeSantis’ campaign accepted a roughly $50,000 contribution from the shell company set up by the two businessmen.

Both Scott and DeSantis have taken steps to distance themselves from these illegal contributions to their governor’s affiliated political action committee campaigns.

Scott announced that he would be donating the funds received from the two businessmen to the Shriner’s Hospital. Similarly, a spokeswoman for DeSantis stated on Thursday that allegations of illegal donations to the “governor’s affiliated political action committee in 2018 are troubling” and that “Governor DeSantis is directing the political action committee to return the money to the federal government.”

While it seems clear that Parnas and Fruman were involved in some sort of electoral corruption, what remains unclear is the extent of both their misconduct and that of other players engaged in the controversy. 

Federal prosecutors have not limited their inquiry to Parnas and Fruman, they have also been investing ties of the two businessmen to leading American figures such as Giuliani.

Giuliani was paid $500,000 for what was allegedly business and legal advice for another company run by Parnas called Fraud Guarantee.

According to the 2018 indictment by US prosecutors, the source of the money was in fact an unidentified Russian businessman that funneled the funds through Parnas and Fruman and their various businesses to American politicians and candidates.

Should this prove true, all of the contributions to US political candidates made by the two businessmen would have been illegal.

However, Giuliani claimed in an interview with Reuters that he knows “beyond any doubt the source of the money is not any questionable source” and that he can without a doubt rule out any possibility of the money coming from foreign sources.

Both Parnas and Fruman have been subpoenaed by several House committees as part of the ongoing investigation into dealings between President Trump and the Ukrainian President.

Featured photo: Rudy Giuliani at a Donald Trump rally in 2016. (Unmodified photo by Gage Skidmore used under a Creative Commons license https://bit.ly/2p20fkT).

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