In the wake of a federal jury convicting rapper Pras Michel on charges related to failing to register as an agent of China and violating campaign finance laws, Issue One released the following statement about the dangers of secretive foreign influence campaigns and covert foreign interference in U.S. elections.
“Covert foreign influence operations of any sort in the United States should not be tolerated,” said Issue One Founder and CEO Nick Penniman. “Foreign and domestic actors must follow the laws we have on the books when it comes to lobbying the U.S. government and making campaign contributions. This conviction shows that accepting campaign contributions from foreign nationals, using shell companies to funnel money from foreign nationals into U.S. elections, and enlisting networks of straw donors to help you evade campaign contribution limits are bright lines that should not be crossed by anyone.”
He continued: “We must remain vigilant against secretive attempts by foreign nationals and foreign governments to seek access to, and influence with, U.S. politicians, and the Justice Department must continue to prioritize cases of alleged foreign interference in our elections.”
Issue One warned how shell companies that give money to super PACs could be conduits for foreign money in U.S. elections in a report published in 2020. That report also included a tipsheet for investigating political contributions from shell companies, such as mysterious limited liability companies (LLCs) — like the one Michel used to support a pro-Obama super PAC in 2012, as was first reported by the Center for Public Integrity.
The charges against Michel stemmed from him receiving large sums of money from Malaysian billionaire Jho Low, who is accused of stealing billions of dollars from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund — sums that were then used to support President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection as well as to lobby the Trump administration to extradite a Chinese billionaire named Miles Guo, who has been charged in a fraud scheme in New York.