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Former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood took $ 50,000 from an associate of a billionaire who was running an illegal scheme providing foreign contributions to U.S. campaigns, federal prosecutors said Wednesday. LaHood subsequently failed to disclose the check on two government ethics forms, as required.
LaHood, the transportation secretary during former President Barack Obama’s first term, received a check for $ 50,000 from Virginie Toufic Baaklini’s businessman in 2012. According to the Department of Justice, LaHood has “ understood ”that this money actually came from the Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury.
LaHood did not disclose the loan because he did not want to be publicly associated with Chagoury. The DOJ said in a statement that LaHood was facing financial problems when he accepted the check. The former secretary then attempted to mislead federal agents investigating Chagoury and did not disclose the check or who gave it to him.
Chagoury, with the help of Baaklini and other associates, ran a complicated and illegal ploy channeling foreign money into US elections. According to prosecutors, Chagoury provided $ 180,000 to people in the United States who donated money to four federal political candidates from 2012 to 2016. These candidates are not named.
LaHood was not involved in the scheme, prosecutors said.
In one non-prosecution agreement signed in December 2019, LaHood agreed to cooperate with the government’s investigation, refunded the $ 50,000 and paid a fine of $ 40,000.