U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, who this week sharply criticized his House colleagues for their Ukraine-related impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, last year accepted campaign donations from one of the foreign nationals arrested Wednesday as part of the widening Ukrainian investigation.
Barr took $2,432 in re-election donations through a joint House Republican fundraising committee last year from Ukrainian-born businessman Igor Misha Fruman of Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., according to federal election records.
Federal authorities on Wednesday arrested Fruman and his business partner, Lev Parnas, at Dulles International Airport airport in Washington on suspicion of trying to illegally buy influence from American politicians. The men were boarding a one-way flight for Germany.
When the Herald-Leader asked Barr’s office about the donations on Friday morning, a spokeswoman said Barr’s campaign would donate that sum to a local charity, Voices of Hope, that helps with addiction recovery. She said Barr never personally heard from Fruman.
“Never heard of him,” said Barr spokeswoman Jodi Whitaker. “Congressman Barr has never heard of him, had never heard of him before this week.”
Whitaker said Fruman’s donation was designated for Barr through Protect The House, a joint fundraising committee that raised more than $600,000 in 2018 to try to defend Republican House members facing tough challengers. Fruman and Parnas were both donors to Protect the House events.
According to a federal indictment unsealed this week, Fruman, Parnas and two other foreign nationals schemed in 2018 to illegally funnel foreign money to candidates for state and federal office in the United States so they could win improper political influence.
Fruman, 53, and Parnas, 47, used straw donors and a shell company they established called Global Energy Producers to hide the true source of their contributions, according to the indictment. They sought to influence politicians on behalf of the Ukrainian government, according to the indictment.
“Campaign finance laws exist for a reason. The American people expect and deserve an election process that hasn’t been corrupted by the influence of foreign interests, and the public has the right to know the true source of campaign contributions,” FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said in a prepared statement on Thursday.
Fruman and Parnas are friends and clients of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is Trump’s personal attorney. Trump has been photographed with Fruman and Parnas and accepted political donations from the men, but this week he denied knowing them.
They were subpoenaed to be questioned late this week in the House impeachment inquiry. Lawmakers said they want to know more about the role the two men played in an effort to have the United States ambassador to the Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, recalled. Also, Giuliani has said the men assisted him in seeking information in Ukraine that could be used against former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, one of Trump’s political rivals in the 2020 campaign.
Barr has criticized the Democratic majority in the House for the way it has pursued the impeachment inquiry, saying there has been no “semblance of a fair or impartial process.”
“Neither the executive branch nor members of Congress should support this constitutionally defective, politicized and illegitimate process which, if unchanged, will do irreparable harm to the institutional reputation of Congress as a co-equal branch of government,” Barr said in his statement on Wednesday.
Barr was first elected in 2012 to represent Central Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District.