Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, is the only congressional candidate who has received donations from both of the Ukraine-linked businessmen who were accused of illegally laundering $325,000 to a pro-Trump super PAC, according to campaign-finance records.
Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas both contributed $2,700 — the maximum allowed — to Sessions’s campaign on June 25, both listing Global Energy Producers as their employer.
Two months earlier, the company didn’t exist.
Weeks after it was established in April, the company contributed $325,000 to America First Action, a PAC run by former Trump aides and that regularly features Trump himself at fundraisers.
In July, the Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint against Parnas, Fruman and Global Energy Producers, alleging that the company was used as an illegal conduit for campaign contributions.
The complaint claimed that the company could not have generated enough revenue in such a short amount of time to set aside such a large political donation, meaning it was likely an illegal vehicle used to obscure the true source of the contributions.
Global Energy Producers responded that it was a legitimate company involved exporting American liquefied natural gas.
A spokesperson for the company disputed the Campaign Legal Center complaint, telling The Daily Beast that Fruman and Parnas are American citizens who emigrated to “flee Eastern European oppression.”
However, Fruman is one of the wealthiest men in Odessa, where he operates a sprawling business empire with interests in luxury goods, food distribution and hospitality, according to Ukrainian news reports.
One magazine included him on a list of Ukraine’s wealthiest men and pegged his net worth at around $28 million.
Fruman, who was born in Ukraine, and his Ukraine-based business partner, a former Odessa politician named Sergey Dyablo, have been embroiled in a number of controversies that have not been reported in English-language media.
Until 2013, the two operated a large dairy plant that supplied Ukraine with as much as a quarter of its baby formula. One of the plant’s largest creditors was VTB Bank, which has such close ties to the Kremlin that a British newspaper called it “Putin’s piggy bank” and has been the subject of U.S. sanctions since 2014.
The Daily Beast reported in July that Parnas was born in Russia and runs a company called FraudGuarantee, a company that says it provides tools to prevent financial fraud and does business in the U.S., Russia, India and the
Sessions isn’t an unlikely source for contributions from Fruman and Parnas.
In July 2017, as chairman of the House Rules Committee, Sessions held up a Russian sanctions bill, arguing the new sanctions “would inflict unintended consequences and put American energy companies at a disadvantage,” and watered-down version of the bill that gave American energy companies more flexibility to conduct business in Russia eventually passed.