A watchdog organization has filed a complaint against Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s campaign following a $350,000 donation he got from a foreign-owned firm that is part of an overseas money-laundering investigation.
The Washington Free Beacon, which obtained a copy of the Friday filing by the National Legal and Policy Center, reported that the government watchdog group is asking the Federal Election Commission to “promptly investigate” if the contribution was a violation of federal laws that bar political campaigns from accepting donations from foreign nationals and governments.
“Terry McAuliffe has a history of accepting foreign contributions. The FEC must fully investigate these serious charges that he accepted $350,000 in illegal foreign contributions for his current campaign,” said NLPC counsel Paul Kamenar, a Washington, D.C. lawyer who drafted and filed the complaint with the agency.
The outlet noted that LycaTel LLC, which is owned by Allirajah Subaskaran, a Sri Lankan-British national, donated $350,000 to McAuliffe in July.
“The company is a New Jersey subsidiary of Subaskaran’s U.K.-based telecom conglomerate, which boasts a complicated web of offshore businesses and has been the subject of tax-fraud and money-laundering charges in France,” the Free Beacon reported.
Federal statutes prohibit campaigns from accepting donations from any foreign nationals and foreign entities, either directly or indirectly, in federal, state, and local elections. U.S.-based subsidiaries of foreign companies are permitted to make donations but it cannot come at the direction of the firm’s foreign leaders, which often creates a less-than-clear legal distinction, the outlet reported.
“This is effectively a really easy way to launder foreign money into the U.S. political process and to avoid the FEC prohibition on foreign nationals making contributions in U.S. elections,” said Ben Freeman, the director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center for International Policy, in an earlier interview with the Free Beacon.
According to the outlet, LycaTel hasn’t contributed previously to political campaigns in Virginia or any federal races.
“In July, the company retained D.C.-based lobbyist Robert Thompson to lobby on ‘Telecom’ issues, according to disclosure records,” the Free Beacon noted.
“Prior to that, Thompson had registered as a foreign agent representing Subaskaran as part of a ‘business expansion within the U.S.A.,’ according to records filed with the Department of Justice,” the outlet reported.
Previously, LycaTel’s operations in the U.S. have been scrutinized by federal agencies. The FCC fined the company $5 million in 2011 for “deceptively marketing prepaid calling cards” to mostly immigrant purchasers.
The company told the FCC that the low-rate cards could be utilized to make “hundreds of minutes of calls” overseas, but buyers were actually only able to use “a fraction of those minutes for calls, because LycaTel applies a variety of fees and surcharges that quickly deplete the card,” the Federal Communications Commission noted.
McAuliffe faces off against Republican gubernatorial challenger Glenn Youngkin on Tuesday. While the Democrat started off his campaign with a lead, recent polling indicates a tight race, and some surveys have had Youngkin, a businessman and former collegiate basketball star, ahead of McAuliffe.
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