News & Politics

Virginia Governor McAuliffe Under Federal Investigation for Illegal Campaign Contributions

Photo by Olivier Douliery/Sipa USA

The Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Unit is investigating contributions made to the gubernatorial campaign of  Democratic Governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe.

What spices up the investigation is that one of the possible illegal contributions came from a Chinese national when McAuliffe, a longtime crony of the Clintons, was serving on the board of the Clinton Global Initiative.

CNN:

The investigation dates to at least last year and has focused, at least in part, on whether donations to his gubernatorial campaign violated the law, the officials said.

McAuliffe wasn’t notified by investigators that he is a target of the probe, according to the officials.

“The Governor will certainly cooperate with the government if he is contacted about it,” said Marc Elias, attorney for McAuliffe campaign, in a statement to CNN.

As part of the probe, the officials said, investigators have scrutinized McAuliffe’s time as a board member of the Clinton Global Initiative, a vehicle of the charitable foundation set up by former President Bill Clinton.

There’s no allegation that the foundation did anything improper; the probe has focused on McAuliffe and the electoral campaign donations, the officials said.

Spokespeople for the Justice Department and the FBI declined to comment.

Among the McAuliffe donations that drew the interest of the investigators was $120,000 from a Chinese businessman, Wang Wenliang, through his U.S. businesses. Wang was previously delegate to China’s National People’s Congress, the country’s ceremonial legislature.

“Neither the Governor nor his former campaign has knowledge of this matter, but as reported, contributions to the campaign from Mr. Wang were completely lawful,” said Elias.

Wang also has been a donor to the Clinton foundation, pledging $2 million. He also has been a prolific donor to other causes, including to New York University, Harvard and environmental issues in Florida.

U.S. election law prohibits foreign nationals from donating to federal, state or local elections. Penalties for violations include fines and/or imprisonment.

But Wang holds U.S. permanent resident status, according to a spokeswoman, which would make him a U.S. person under election law and eligible to donate to McAuliffe’s campaign.

Neither Wang nor his company used to make the donations have been contacted by U.S. investigators, according to the spokeswoman.

Wang’s contribution is apparently only one of several the FBI is looking at. Given his position as a board member of the Clinton Foundation, the FBI may be looking at any number of donations from foreign nationals that may have been funneled to McAuliffe’s campaign using Wang or some other legal front.

We’ll eventually discover who and what’s being investigated. But the involvement of the Public Integrity Unit at DoJ is not a good sign for McAuliffe. They usually aren’t brought in unless a preliminary investigation points to criminal activity.