Last October, a federal jury convicted Rudy Giuliani’s associate, Lev Parnas, on criminal campaign finance charges for concealing the source of a $325,000 donation to a group supporting then-President Donald Trump.
But seven months later, the Federal Electoral Commission — the agency charged with civil enforcement of campaign finance regulations — failed to collect enough votes to enforce the same law, according to a decision that has not yet been released.
The finding was published last week in an attachment attached to a brief filed by Parnas’ lawyer ahead of his client’s sentencing scheduled for Wednesday. It’s the latest in a confusing series of defaults by the notoriously sclerotic FEC, whose Republican commissioners have consistently refused to take action against accused violators, even in the face of evidence of wrongdoing.
The irony was not lost on Parnas’ defense attorney, Joe Bondy, who quoted from a resignation letter the FEC had sent his client to say the matter was closed.
The original complaint backed up the charges on which Parnas was eventually convicted, Bondy said. Yet somehow, he said, the FEC still “doesn’t have enough votes to find reason to believe that [Parnas] knowingly and intentionally violate the same law.
The FEC’s June 2 letter to Parnas also noted that “the Commission was equally divided as to whether the allegation should be dismissed at the discretion of the prosecutor” and had closed the matter. The vote took place on May 22 and the full dossier will be released later this week.
This complete file will attach some flesh to the bare bones message sent to Parnas. It will show how the six commissioners voted, as well as the internal General Counsel’s legal analysis of violations. The file will also likely include possible responses and legal arguments by the defendants.
The FEC commissioners — a six-member body split equally between Democrats and Republicans by law — have long been attacked by government overseers and liberals for failing to act on what even their own lawyers call clear violations. The blame, these critics say, rests squarely with GOP commissioners, who routinely end investigations in separate decisions.
In an extreme example, The Daily Beast reported in March that despite numerous cases in which the agency’s own lawyers found evidence of wrongdoing, Trump has an improbable 43-0 record on FEC investigations – a record he has since improved Has.
FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat who voted to take action against Parnas, dismissed the idea that the verdict played in Parnas’ favor and warned against reading too far into the key points of the brief resignation letter.
Weintraub told The Daily Beast that some commissioners prefer not to take further action after a criminal prosecution. The full file is more complex, she said, warning that the Parnas defense team “should not take this as an exoneration.”
“In general, it is historically correct that there are commissioners who prefer not to take action against someone in a civil context when they have already been charged in a criminal context, because they feel the government has no further interest ‘ Weintraub said. “But no, that should not be taken as exoneration in any way.”
The FEC first learned of the straw donation allegations in a complaint filed in July 2018 by the non-partisan Campaign Legal Center. (The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay was the first to identify the straw donation, leading to the complaint; CLC then flagged its findings for federal police.)
The CLC lawsuit — and the DOJ’s later indictment — alleges that Parnas and his then-colleague Igor Fruman set up a bogus firm to funnel $325,000 to pro-Trump super-PAC America First Action while they obscure the true source of the money.
In reality, that contribution came from Parnas and Fruman themselves. Parnas and Fruman lied to the FEC in affidavits about the source of the donation, prosecutors said, and used the gift to ingratiate themselves in political circles, even elbowing with Trump himself rub. (The false affidavits were prepared by Giuliani’s then-law firm Greenberg Traurig, Bondy told The Daily Beast.)
The motley couple set up the fake company called Global Energy Producers to keep their names off the sizable donation and thus avoid alerting creditors that they have access to money, federal prosecutors claimed. They said the deal had no legitimate purpose or assets and the money came from a personal mortgage loan secured by Fruman.
A jury found Parnas guilty last October; He’s been under house arrest since then and, according to Bondy’s pre-conviction report, recently gained enough freedom to work nights as a DoorDash delivery man.
But Fruman struck a cooperation deal with the government and last September pleaded guilty to soliciting foreign donations — some of which went to GOP Senate nominee Adam Laxalt. Fruman was not charged with the straw donation program and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison in January.
Giuliani recruited Parnas and Fruman to assist him in his efforts to dig up dirt on Trump’s main political rival, Joe Biden — a convoluted conspiracy that eventually led to the first-ever impeachment of Giuliani’s client Trump for withholding US military aides to help the Ukrainian to blackmail President Volodymyr Zelensky into the investigation into the Bidens.
The trio also became embroiled in a neighboring shady venture called Fraud Guarantee, which the government ultimately pinned on Parnas and another associate, David Correia. In March, Parnas pleaded guilty to allegations of fraud related to this system.
However, Parnas was denied a cooperation agreement. He faces a conviction on Wednesday. The FEC will publish the full dossier, including the commissioners’ legal justification, on Thursday.
https://www.thedailybeast.com/fec-lets-rudy-giuliani-pal-lev-parnasoff-the-hook-after-his-felony-conviction?source=articles&via=rss FEC lets Rudy Giuliani off the hook Pal Lev Parnas after his felony conviction