Politics

Rep. Rohrabacher Will Donate Manafort’s Campaign Contribution to Local Charity

California GOP rep received $1,000 from Manafort in 2013, when he was working for Russia-sympathetic Ukrainian president

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., will divert a $1,000 campaign contribution from convicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher pledged last November to purge his campaign coffers of the $1,000 donation Paul Manafort made to his re-election campaign in the 2014 cycle if the 2016 Trump campaign chairman was found guilty of federal charges.

The California Republican will follow through on that promise, a campaign spokesman told Roll Call, after an Eastern Virginia jury handed down guilty verdicts Tuesday on eight counts charging Manafort with tax evasion from 2010 to 2014 and bank loan fraud in March 2016.

“The campaign will donate that amount to a local charity,” Dale Neugebauer, Rohrabacher’s spokesman, said in an email.

Asked if Rohrabacher had decided on a specific charity or cause, Neugebauer said, “Not yet.”

The donation to Rohrabacher was revealed in documents Manafort filed with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act last summer.

Manafort’s registration cited his work on behalf of the pro-Russian political party in Ukraine that held power there from 2010 to 2014, and listed political meetings in the U.S. as part of his work.

One of the meetings was with Rohrabacher, and three days after the meeting, Manafort contributed $1,000 to Rohrabacher’s campaign. The Federal Election Commission shows the contribution came on March 22, 2013.

It is not unusual for lawmakers to offload campaign cash they receive from donors who later fall in disgrace, even years after the fact.

When The New York Times reported multiple sexual assault allegations against Hollywood producer and Democratic power-donor Harvey Weinstein, Democrats raced to rid their campaigns of the collective $1.4 million he donated to the party and its candidates since 1992.

Presidential hopeful Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said she would donate $11,800 she had received from Weinstein over the years to RAINN, a group that helps victims of sexual violence.

Another possible 2020 candidate, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, signed a check for $5,000 to Casa Myrna, a group in Boston that takes in domestic violence victims.

When then-candidate Donald Trump called illegal immigrants from Mexico “rapists” in June 2015, Nevada GOP Sen. Dean Heller donated to charity the $2,000 the man who would become president had contributed to his campaign.

At the time, Heller said Trump’s comments were “absolutely wrong, and I dismiss them,” the Washington Examiner reported.

Rohrabacher is facing arguably his toughest re-election this November as he seeks a 16th term. The former Ronald Reagan speechwriter has represented parts of Southern California since 1988.

His Democratic opponent, real estate developer Harley Rouda, had called Rohrabacher out for waiting to repudiate Manafort’s money until a conviction.

“My opponent ... has no problem accepting campaign contributions from now convicted felon Mr. Manafort,” Rouda wrote Tuesday on Twitter. “Orange County deserves better than corrupted, cynical politicians who sell out to special interests.”

Rohrabacher did not want to jump to any premature conclusions, former spokesman Ken Grubbs told Reuters last October.

“The Congressman advises his political opponents and the media to observe the presumption of innocence, still an American principle,” Grubbs wrote in an email to the wire service at the time.

Rouda was, predictably, not impressed with Rohrabacher’s decision to give away the money and said it “raises some interesting questions.”

“Why did Dana sit on the contribution for five years and is only willing to give it back now that Manafort is a convicted felon?” Rouda said in a statement. “And ... does Manafort’s contribution have any connection to the ongoing FBI investigation of two alleged Russian operatives — an investigation that Dana is deeply entwined in?”

Rouda was referring to meetings Rohrabacher has held with alleged Russian spy Maria Butina and Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who planned the 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

Hillary Clinton carried California’s 48th District over Trump by 2 points in 2016.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race a Toss-up.

Manafort faces up to 80 years in prison pending a sentencing hearing after his conviction Tuesday on five counts of filing false tax returns, one count of failing to disclose foreign accounts to the Treasury Department, and two counts of bank loan fraud.

Judge T.S. Ellis III declared a mistrial on the other 10 counts after the jury could not reach a unanimous decision on them.

Prosecutors have until next Wednesday to decide whether they want to re-try Manafort on the remaining 10 counts.

Eric Garcia contributed to this report.

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