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PAC supporting Morrisey connected to indictment

CHARLESTON — A $15,000 donation made to a political action committee that backed Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s campaign for U.S. Senate is at the center of a controversy involving President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and an impeachment inquiry.

According to national media outlets, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were two of four people indicted in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Thursday for violations of campaign finance laws. The Wall Street Journal reports that Parnas and Fruman were arrested in Northern Virginia Thursday.

Parnas, a Ukrainian national, and Belarus-national Fruman are known associates of Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney who is being investigated as part of an impeachment inquiry by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The New York Times reports that Giuliani, Parnas and Fruman were working with Ukrainian officials on behalf of Trump to get the foreign government to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s dealings in the country. The House is now investigating Trump after a whistleblower report and a phone transcript between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky allegedly show Trump withholding arms funding to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

According to the unsealed indictment, Parnas and Fruman started an LLC, Global Energy Partners. The company, made to look like a liquified natural gas company, was allegedly a shell designed to funnel money from foreign nationals into U.S political campaigns. According to the indictment, Parnas and Fruman donated $325,000 to one political action committee (PAC) and $15,000 to another PAC.

In a story published by WTAE in Pittsburgh and confirmed by this paper, the $15,000 donation went to 35th PAC on May 3, 2018, just prior to the May 9 Republican primary. According to WTAE, the $350,000 donation went to a Pro-Trump Super PAC called America First Action.

35th PAC was a pro-Patrick Morrisey PAC supporting the attorney general’s campaign for U.S. Senate in 2018. Morrisey was one of six candidates in the primary, winning with 35 percent of the vote. He later lost to U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

Out of the 40 donations made to 35th PAC during the 2018 campaign, only four donations came from inside West Virginia. Two of those were from James Ruland, one was from Gov. Jim Justice, and one was from Cary Communications, a company owned by Justice adviser Bray Cary.

Federal law prohibits foreign nationals from contributing to federal, state, and local elections or making donations in the name of someone else. U.S. citizen David Correia and Ukrainian citizen Andrey Kukushkin were also indicted for their part in the alleged scheme.

“Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman…made additional contributions to federal candidates, joint fundraising committees, and independent expenditure committees that either intentionally funneled through, or made in the name of, a (LLC) to conceal that Parnas and Fruman were the true source of contributions and skirt the federal reporting requirements,” the indictment stated.

“Despite the fact that the (Federal Election Commission) forms for these contributions required Parnas and Fruman to disclose the true donor of the funds, they falsely reported that the contributions came from (Global Energy Partners),” the indictment continued.

Parnas and Fruman are charged with two counts of conspiracy, one count of making false statements to the FEC, and one count of falsification of records. According to Politico, in a letter from former Trump attorney John Dowd, neither Parnas nor Fruman will participate in testifying before the House’s impeachment inquiry.

Morrisey, through a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office, directed all questions to 35th PAC. A request for comment from D.J. Eckert, a partner in Matchstick Media Strategies and executive director of 35th PAC, was not returned.