Capital Region

Indicted Ukrainian donated to Faso’s campaign

Former congressman says he will return money or donate it to charity
John Faso speaks at the Daily Gazette in 2017.
John Faso speaks at the Daily Gazette in 2017.

CAPITAL REGION — One of the Ukrainian associates of Rudy Guiliani indicted last week on campaign finance violation charges donated money to former U.S. Rep. John Faso’s 2018 election campaign.

Faso, a Republican who served one two-year term representing the 19th Congressional District before losing in 2018 to current U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, was among 21 House Republicans who received donations of $2,445 that year from Igor Fruman, who made the donations under the name “Furman” in violation of election law, according to the indictment.

Faso, who lives in Kinderhook, said Tuesday he was aware of the donation, which was channeled through a joint fundraising committee that backed Republicans, called Protect the House. He said he never met or solicited funding from Fruman or his partner, Lev Parnas.

“I’ve taken steps to either refund or donate the contribution to charity,” Faso said. “I will likely donate it to charity.”

The 2018 Faso-Delgado race drew national attention because it was expected to be close, one of several that would determine control of the House of Representatives. Faso spent $3.9 million during the 2018 election cycle, while Delgado spent more than $9.2 million, according to Federal Election Commission records. Delgado won 52 percent of the votes, compared to 47 percent for Faso.

The significance of the $2,445 figure that was donated to most of the selected campaigns is unclear. Federal law allowed individuals to donate up to $2,700 to a federal candidate during the 2018 election cycle.

No other Capital Region candidates received Fruman donations, but elsewhere in upstate New York, U.S. Rep. John Katko, R-Syracuse, and former congresswoman Claudia Tenney, R-New Hartford, were among recipients. Tenney, who represented the 22nd District, is campaigning to unseat the man who defeated her, Anthony Brindisi, in 2020. Tenney and Katko told they will donate the contributions to charity.

Fruman and Parnas were arrested by federal authorities at Dulles International Airport in Northern Virginia outside Washington, D.C.,  on Oct. 9 as they prepared to leave the country with one-way international tickets. An indictment unsealed the next day in New York City accuses the men of making the donations to help their own financial interests and those of at least one unidentified Ukrainian government official.

Federal Election Commission records show Fruman listed himself as president of Import Export Corp., and as living in Woodmere, a hamlet in Nassau County.

Fruman and Parnas are both U.S. citizens, though born in Belarus and Ukraine, respectively. They were major donors to President Donald Trump’s campaign, and in 2018 hired Guiliani, the former New York City mayor and Trump’s personal attorney, as a consultant. The men are accused of using an energy company that appears to have been a shell corporation to donate $325,000 to the Trump campaign. Guiliani has denied knowledge of any wrongdoing involving the men.

Prosecutors say the donations were part of a broader effort to use disguised foreign money to back a campaign to oust the former U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine, Marie Yanokovich. Trump ultimately recalled Yovanovich this past May. The surrounding circumstances are among the issues the House Democrats are investigating as part of their impeachment inquiry.

Faso, a former state Assembly minority leader and the Republican candidate for governor in 2006, remains politically active in Columbia County, but said he has no plans to run for Congress again in 2020.

In the Capital Region, the 19th District includes western Montgomery County, all of Schoharie County, and most of Rensselaer County. It extends south through the Hudson Valley to Poughkeepsie, and also includes the northern Catskills.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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