Nevada gets its Ukraine connection, courtesy of Laxalt, Duncan

laxalt and duncan
Former Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt and failed Republican attorney general candidate Wes Duncan.
laxalt and duncan
Former Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate, Adam Laxalt. and failed Republican attorney general candidate Wes Duncan.

“Adam doesn’t know the man.”

That was the reaction from a spokesman for former attorney general Adam Laxalt to the news Thursday that four men — including two associates of Rudy Giuliani — had been indicted on several counts, including illegally funneling foreign campaign contributions to Laxalt.

In July 2018, according to the indictment from the U.S. Attorney’s office of the Southern District of New York, the four men “made plans to form a recreational marijuana business” that “required gaining access to retail marijuana licenses in particular states, including Nevada.”

In September 2018, after missing a deadline for retail dispensary applications, the two indicted defendants who are associates of Giuliani, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were told by a third defendant, Andrey Kukushin, “that they were ‘2 months too late to the game unless they changed the rules,’ and noted that they needed a particular Nevada state official, the position for which Candidate 1 was running, ‘to green light to implement this,’” the indictment states.

According to the indictment, Fruman made a $10,000 contribution to  “Candidate 1” on Nov. 1.

Campaign finance reports recorded with the Secretary of State’s office show Fruman made two $5,000 contributions to Laxalt, then running for governor, on Nov. 1, as well as a $10,000 contribution to Republican Wes Duncan, who was running for attorney general.

The indictment charges that in Nevada, Fruman, Parnas, Kukushin and the fourth defendant, David Correia, were acting as conduits who were illegally funneling money supplied by “Foreign National 1,” a “Russian citizen and businessman.”

The indictment includes charges of conspiracy to violate federal election laws “including the prohibitions applicable to foreign nationals” and so-called “straw donors” — people acting as conduits for campaign contributions from someone else, in this instance, the Russian businessman.

Along with the allegedly illegal contributions to Laxalt and Duncan, the indictment charges Fruman and Parnas, working in association with at least one Ukranian government official, made hundreds of thousands of dollars of illegal contributions to Republican groups.

Parnas and Fruman have reportedly accompanied Giuliani, Donald Trump’s personal attorney, as Giuliani has attempted to convince Ukrainian officials to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.

The final paragraph of the final count of the indictment reads, “On or about Nov. 1, 2018, the defendants used funds wired by Foreign National-1 to make maximum donations to two political candidates for state office in Nevada.”

“He came to a Las Vegas fundraiser,” Laxalt spokesman Andy Matthews told the Reno Gazette-Journal Thursday. “Adam doesn’t know the man.”

A separate Laxalt spokesman, Robert Uithoven, later told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Laxalt, too, “intends to return the donation.”

Duncan, in a statement emailed to the Nevada Independent, said “I was made aware of the story about the indictment this morning and immediately had the treasurer from my AG campaign refund Mr. Fruman’s contribution. I had no idea Mr. Fruman was acting unlawfully.”

Parnas and Fruman were arrested Wednesday at Dulles Airport, where they were trying to leave the country with one-way tickets.

Laxalt’s Morning in Nevada political action committee newsletter Thursday morning, evidently prepared before news broke about the allegedly illegal campaign contributions, asserted impeachment efforts stemming from the Ukrainian scandal “are nothing more than a politically motivated witch-hunt against President Trump.”

Laxalt’s newsletter also described the whistleblower as a member of the “deep state,” adding “Let’s not lose sight of this crucial truth: Asking Ukraine’s new president to look into what Joe Biden and his son might have been involved in is NOT an impeachable offense.”

Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson has been writing about Nevada policy and politics for more than 20 years. He was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and wrote the then-groundbreaking Las Vegas Gleaner, which among other things was the only independent political blog from Nevada that was credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He spent a few years as a senior energy and environmental policy analyst for Public Citizen, and has occasionally worked as a consultant on mining, taxation, education and other issues for Nevada labor and public interest organizations. His freelance work has been published in outlets ranging from the Guardian to Desert Companion to In These Times to the Oil & Gas Journal. For several years he also taught U.S. History courses at UNLV. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and then assistant managing editor at the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming’s largest newspaper.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Good reporting. This opens a can of worms of the possible corruption and organized international crime influence in pot business. More enforcement people are needed? Like gaming control? Who is doing background checks? Etc

  2. Also I forgot Andy Mathews is runni8ng for Assembly with Laxalt” endorsement. ANd was with NPRI. I wonder if NPRI should be investigated? Was it a registered foreign agent?

    • He’s got a last name that makes the “good old days of Reagone” all warm and fuzzy.

      I can see why the “gaming businesses” wanted to keep a substantial distance from the pot industry.

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