The U.S. Attorney in Manhattan this morning announced an indictment of four men–including three born in the lands of the former Soviet Union–on campaign finance charges involving laundering of Russian-money contributions benefiting Donald Trump and Republican candidates to state office in Nevada. Among many other things, the indictment states that an alleged conspiracy involving the four included a 2018 meeting in Las Vegas and hints the goal of the Nevada contributions–which public records suggest were to the campaigns that year of Attorney General Adam Laxalt for governor and Wesley Duncan for attorney general–was to grease the skids to get a retail marijuana license.
I have no idea whatsoever about the merits of the allegations, and there is no public evidence now that Laxalt and Duncan, accused of nothing, knew anything about purported motives. But the four-count, 21-page indictment is more than enough to make the four named defendants–Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman, David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin–candidates for my list It Didn’t Stay Here. That roster consists of folks in trouble elsewhere for something that happened in Las Vegas, refuting “What Happens Here, Stays Here,” the famous marketing slogan of the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority. I’d say an indictment brought by feared federal prosecutors in the Southern District Of New York qualifies as trouble elsewhere. You can see previous nominees nearby. (As it happens, they also include Trump for an earlier matter).
This indictment will get massive attention because two of the defendants, Parnas and Fruman, have been helping Trump attorney/fixer Rudy Giuliani gin up allegations concerning Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, over their dealings in Ukraine. But as someone New To Las Vegas, I prefer to focus on the sideshow of the local angle.
The indictment broadly alleges violations of campaign finance laws making it illegal to make political contributions in the name of another person, and also to prohibit contributions from foreign nationals. The indictment says that Parnas, a Ukraine native now a U.S. citizen, and Fruman, a Belarus native also now a U.S. citizen, created a non-operating limited liability corporation, Global Energy Producers, to be the donor of record for a $325,000 contribution to a pro-Trump political action committee rather than the true source, described as unnamed “third parties.”
According to the indictment, an unindicted person called “Foreign National-1” wanted to fund a recreational marijuana business requiring a license in several states, including Nevada. In September 2018, Parnas, Fruman, Correia (a U.S. native) and Kukushkin (another Ukraine native now a U.S. citizens), “met in Las Vegas, Nevada to discuss the Business Venture.” It seems the idea was to keep Foreign Nation-1’s name out of it because of “his Russian roots and current political paranoia about it,” according to the indictment quoting Kukushkin.
The indictment says Parnas, Fruman and Kukushkin also attended political rallies. One was for a person the indictment calls “Candidate-1.” On November 1, 2018, Candidate-1 received $10,000 in donations in the name of Fruman but funded by Foreign National-1. Nevada state campaign finance records I just consulted show this gift was to Laxalt, in what proved to be a losing campaign for governor to Democrat Steve Sisolak. Thesame day, Fruman made another $10,000 contribution funded by Foreign National-1 to a person styled “Candidate-2.” Nevada state campaign records show this was to Duncan, running a losing race for attorney general to Democrat Aaron Ford.
The reason for this generosity, the indictment suggests, is that “the defendants did not timely apply for a recreational marijuana license in September 2018, the then-deadline for such applications in Nevada.” Kukushkin is quoted as saying they needed the new governor “to green light to implement this.”
Deadpans the indictment, “The Business Venture did not come to fruition.”
In charging conspiracy, the indictment says, “On November 1, 2018, the defendants used funds wired by Foreign National-1 to make maximum donations to two political candidates for State office in Nevada.”
OMG this is juicy! And It Didn’t Stay Here.