Politics

Rick Scott donates campaign contributions from indicted Giuliani associate

Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott said Monday he donated two campaign contributions from Igor Fruman, a South Florida businessman who was arrested on campaign finance charges with his partner Lev Parnas five days ago.

The Miami Herald reached out to Scott on Thursday, Friday and Monday for comment on what he planned to do with a $5,400 contribution from Fruman to his campaign and a $15,000 contribution from Fruman to the Rick Scott Victory Fund.

A spokesperson for Scott said Monday that he donated the contributions to the Shriner’s Hospital.

Parnas and Fruman, both clients of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, were taken into custody at Dulles International Airport in Virginia last week. The men, and two other business associates, are accused in a New York grand jury indictment of masking the source of their donations to federal candidates.

The announcement from Scott’s office on Monday came after other Republican lawmakers quickly announced that they planned to or already have donated or returned to the federal government contributions from Fruman, Parnas and a supposed liquefied natural gas company called Global Energy Producers. Federal prosecutors say Global Energy Producers was created for the pair to conceal their identities while making large campaign contributions.

The two contributions to Scott’s campaign and associated joint fundraising committee were also made under the misspelled name of “Igor Furman” instead of “Igor Fruman,” described in the indictment as “a further effort to conceal the source of the funds and to evade federal reporting requirements.”

The indictment does not mention contributions to any Florida campaigns as a vehicle for illicit activity nor does it mention any wrongdoing by President Donald Trump or his campaign.

Two other Floridians who received campaign money from Parnas, Fruman or Global Energy Producers announced they would rid their campaigns of the contributions within hours of the arrests of Parnas and Fruman.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said last Thursday his political committee will return a $50,000 donation to the federal government. U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, who received multiple contributions totaling $2,432, said Thursday he would return the money to the Treasury Department.

“Any kind of deception like this individual was using to probably get around campaign finance laws is obviously not tolerable,” Mast spokesperson Brad Stewart said. “I’m sure that other members will feel the same way.”

Parnas and Fruman gave money to a total of 26 candidates for federal office during the 2016 and 2018 campaign cycles, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Of the 26 candidates, 18 are currently serving in Congress or are running for office in 2020. The rest lost reelection in 2018 and are not currently running for office.

According to press reports reviewed by the Miami Herald, only three of those 18 federal candidates have not publicly said whether they plan to disgorge money from Fruman or Parnas: Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, who is retiring; former Rep. Jason Lewis, R-Minn., who is running for U.S. Senate; and former Rep. Scott Taylor, R-Va., who is also running for U.S. Senate.

Parnas and Fruman also made a number of large contributions to GOP groups that are controlled by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. McCarthy’s political operation said last Thursday they were donating the money.

“These contributions were made ahead of events sponsored by Protect the House,” McCarthy spokesman Matt Sparks said in a statement. “The deception documented in today’s indictment has no place in our country and as a result, McCarthy plans to donate amounts received to a local charity.”

The Justice Department charges that Parnas and Fruman concealed the source of a $325,000 contribution made in 2018 to America First, a pro-Trump super PAC that can accept donations of any amount but is not allowed to coordinate directly with Trump or his campaign. America First said it hasn’t spent the money and placed it in a separate bank account after the indictment was announced.

The indictment also mentions a second scheme in Nevada, where Parnas and Fruman donated Russian money to Nevada politicians in order to acquire marijuana retail licenses. Parnas and Fruman also donated to state-level politicians like DeSantis in addition to their federal campaign contributions.

The two South Florida businessmen are embroiled in an impeachment investigation involving efforts by Trump to pursue dirt in Ukraine on former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 rival, and his son Hunter. They claimed to have explosive information about the Bidens and worked as couriers for Giluliani in his ongoing effort to get dirt on one of Trump’s political rivals.

Trump has denied any association with Parnas and Fruman.

“I don’t know about them,” Trump said to reporters outside the White House last week. “I don’t know what they do.”

Miami Herald reporter David Smiley contributed to this report.

This story was updated after Scott’s office told the Miami Herald his campaign would donate the contributions from Fruman.

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