The Phoenix Flyer

Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman apparently fit right in among Florida Republican elite

By: - October 16, 2019 3:31 pm

Gov. Ron DeSantis called for tighter water quality regulations in Jupiter on Oct. 16, 2019. Maybe it’s time to double down on environmental protection? Credit: Governor’s Office

Questions about campaign assistance from two figures in the Ukraine scandal followed Gov. Ron DeSantis to Jupiter Wednesday, where the governor traveled to announce his plan to boost regulation over water quality.

The first question during the news conference concerned DeSantis’ campaign’s acceptance of $50,000 in donations Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman through their company, Global Energy Producers. Additional Florida GOP beneficiaries of their campaign largesse included U.S. Sen. Rick Scott. Both politicians have disgorged the donations.

DeSantis described a milieu in which two now-indicted businessmen who were deeply involved in Rudolf Giuliani’s efforts to produce dirt about Joe Biden and his son rubbed elbows with the crème of the GOP.

“I knew Parnas. I didn’t know the other guy as much,” DeSantis said.

“This was a guy who, you know, at RNC functions, Trump victory functions – I mean, he was at a lot of these things, was I think viewed as one of the top supporters of the president in Florida. And so it was just like any other donor. Nothing more than that.”

Federal agents arrested Parnas and Fruman last week as they prepared to board a flight to Vienna with one-way tickets, on charges connected to alleged injections of foreign cash into U.S. political campaigns in violation of U.S. law.

Pictures of the pair posing with President Trump and Donald Trump Jr. have emerged. And pictures and video posted online this week showed DeSantis interacting with Parnas – possibly as Fruman took a cellphone picture – during the governor’s election night party last November.

Additionally, Parnas reportedly co-hosted two fundraisers for the DeSantis campaign.

The questions asked Wednesday weren’t audible over the governor’s Facebook feed but DeSantis minimized any connection.

“That was a guy who had donated – I think he had donated. I didn’t know any of this stuff that’s come out at the time. It seemed legitimate to us. Once we saw what had happened last week, you know, we went ahead and disgorged that money to the [U.S.] Treasury. Obviously, had we known that was going to happen we would have made a different decision at the time,” DeSantis said.

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal.