A former high-ranking Obama administration official has struck a deal with federal prosecutors following allegations that he was part of a group that “conspired to violate federal election laws.”
According to the Washington Examiner, prosecutors with the Department of Justice (DOJ) say former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood accepted a $50,000 check in 2012 from an individual named Toufic Joseph Baaklini.
Baaklini was described by the Examiner as “an associate of Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury, 75, who, despite being ‘prohibited by federal law from contributing to any U.S. elections,’ made payments to government officials through those in his orbit.”
“Illegal campaign contributions”
In a press release published Wednesday, the DOJ said LaHood — a 75-year-old who worked as transportation secretary from 2009 to 2013, according to the Examiner — had admitted to the allegations and “resolve[d] a federal investigation” claiming he and others had “conspired to violate federal election laws by scheming to make illegal campaign contributions to U.S. presidential and congressional candidates.”
“LaHood, who at the time was suffering financial difficulties, admitted that in 2012 he accepted a $50,000 personal check from Baaklini — with the word ‘Loan’ written in the check’s memo portion — and understood at the time that the money came from Chagoury,” the Justice Department said.
“LaHood failed to disclose the $50,000 check on two government ethics forms as required because LaHood did not want to be associated with Chagoury,” the DOJ added. “Later, LaHood also made misleading statements to FBI agents investigating Chagoury about the check and its source.”
The press release explained that “[a]s part of his non-prosecution agreement signed in December 2019, LaHood also agreed to cooperate with the government’s investigation and repaid the $50,000 to Baaklini.”
LaHood and Baaklini’s conduct was “investigated by the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation, and Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General,” the DOJ said.
Just one example
The incident involving LaHood was just one example of Chagoury using Baaklini and other associates to disburse money among high-profile American figures.
The DOJ states that Baaklini and French resident Joseph Arsan have both “agreed to resolve allegations that they violated campaign contribution laws by assisting Chagoury in his illegal contributions.”
“Arsan, a physician who worked as an assistant to Chagoury, admitted helping Chagoury reimburse others for contributions to political candidates,” the DOJ said in its release. The statement added:
In 2014, Arsan — at Chagoury’s direction — wired $30,000 to a third party and indicated on the wire information form that the funds were for a “wedding gift,” when he knew or should have known that the funds were reimbursement for making a political contribution to a campaign fund for a federal elected official.
For now, it looks like this case is closed. But when Democrats are concerned, it’s hard to shake the feeling that there will be more where that came from.