A spokesperson for Governor Ron DeSantis says the governor is returning a political contribution he received from two Soviet-born businessmen who are now accused of funneling foreign cash into U.S. elections for personal and business purposes.
According to reports, South Florida residents Alex Parnas and Igor Fruman donated $50,000 to the Friends of Ron DeSantis political committee on June 21 of last year, through a company called Global Energy Producers.
DeSantis spokeswoman Helen Ferré says, “The allegations regarding Global Energy Producers to the Governor’s affiliated political action committee in 2018 is troubling. Therefore, Governor DeSantis is directing the political action committee to return the money to the federal government.” She added that DeSantis had not met with pair, and the donation was made the day before President Trump endorsed DeSantis.
She adds, “These individuals have not had any state business or meetings with the governor. Of course, the governor does not condone any illegal activities.”
Prosecutors are accusing Parnas and Fruman of scheming to circumvent campaign finance law in order to influence state and federal candidates.
Campaign finance records also show these contributions from Fruman.
-$25,000 to Florida Grown, which is a political action committee affiliated with Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, on June 26, 2018.
-$20,400 to Senator Rick Scott’s campaign in May 2018, and $2,400 to Republican Congressman Brian Mast between March and June of last year.
Mast’s spokesman, Brad Stewart, says he will also return the money he received to either charity or the treasury. He adds, “Until today, we had no idea who he was,” in reference to Fruman.
Global Energy Producers is included in a federal indictment against Parnas and Fruman because the group reportedly contributed to a Trump-aligned political committee. Records show they used wire transfers from their corporate entity to donate $325,000 to the pro-President Donald Trump America First Action committee last year.
Parnas and Fruman were arrested on Wednesday night at Dulles International Airport in Virginia, while they were attempting to leave the country with one-way tickets. They are facing charges including conspiracy, making false statements to the Federal Election Commission and falsification of records.
The indictment claims the men made political contributions “for the purpose of gaining influence with politicians so as to advance their own personal financial interests and the political interests of Ukrainian government officials, including at least one Ukrainian government official with whom they were working.” It also accuses them of “engaging in a scheme to funnel foreign money to candidates for federal and state office.”
As associates of President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Parnas and Fruman are also believed to have played a key role in Giuliani’s alleged efforts to get Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
The Florida Democratic Party is asking DeSantis to donate the money from Parnas and Fruman to charity.
A lawyer for Parnas and Fruman, John Dowd, says his clients do not plan to appear before House committees investigating President Trump.