The FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) are currently investigating Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia for allegedly accepting foreign campaign donations. The governor has expressed shock at the investigation but has vowed to cooperate.
On May 23, CNN reported that there had been a federal probe into McAuliffe’s campaign contributions for over a year. The focus of the investigation was a $120,000 contribution given by Chinese billionaire Wang Wenliang to McAuliffe’s 2013 gubernatorial campaign.
The federal probe has investigated McAuliffe’s activities as a board member of the Clinton Global Initiative, although there have been no allegations that the foundation itself has committed any wrongdoing.
“This was an allegation of a gentleman who gave a check to my campaign,” McAuliffe said. “I didn’t bring the donor in. I didn’t bring him into the Clinton foundation. I’m not sure if I’ve even met the person, to be honest with you.”
It is illegal for any campaign for office to accept donations from a foreign entity or national. Wang has ties to McAuliffe’s close friends, former president Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The businessman has previously cut a $2 million check for the Clinton Foundation charity.
The Chinese billionaire has a history of philanthropy to U.S. institutions, having donated to New York University, Harvard and environmentalists based in Florida.
Officials who are charged and convicted of accepting campaign contributions from a foreign entity could face fines and a prison term. There are no actual charges filed against McAuliffe at this time.
“There’s no allegations of wrongdoing,” McAuliffe told reporters May 24. “They’re entitled to do an investigation. As I say, it relates to this donor, a valid donor, [who] had been a green card holder since 2007 and we fully vetted him.”
The governor was asked if he had any official reaction to the probe.
“Shock,” McAuliffe answered. “As I say, no one had outreached to us … every check that came in through the campaign was vetted. And they feel [...] very confident the guy’s a legitimate donor.”
A spokeswoman for Wang confirmed that he does have U.S. permanent resident status, making it unclear why the FBI and DOJ would spend a year investigating his campaign contribution.
While there have been no official charges filed against McAuliffe, the governor is currently being sued by his own Legislature.
On May 23, the same day that the federal probe was leaked, the GOP-controlled state House and Senate filed a case with the Supreme Court of Virginia accusing McAuliffe of exceeding his authority when he authorized to restoration of voting rights to 206,000 felons, the Washington Post reports.
McAuliffe signed the executive order in April, declaring it an effort to help give former convicts a second chance after serving their time. The lawsuit has been funded by private donors.