Recently we reported that Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe was under investigation by the FBI and prosecutors from the Justice Department's integrity unit regarding donations to McAuliffe's campaign during his time as a board member of the Clinton Global Initiative. Specifically, investigators were scrutinizing a $120,000 donation McAuliffe received from Wang Wenliang, a Chinese businessman, who was also a donor to the Clinton foundation, pledging $2 million.
While the details of the case are still evolving, being that US election law prohibits foreign nationals from donating to federal, state or local elections McAuliffe immediately went on the offensive early on in order to distance himself from the situation by saying "I wouldn't know the man if he sat in the chair next to me."
Ironically, Wang may have literally sat in the chair next to McAuliffe on many occasions. The Daily Mail has obtained footage that shows the two men entering Hillary Clinton's residence off D.C.'s Embassy row as they attended a fundraiser on September 30, 2013.
Not only did the two men attend the same fundraiser at Hillary's house, TIME reports that the McAuliffe and Wang had interacted at least three times, and that it was McAuliffe himself who invited Wang to the Clinton fundraiser. TIME also goes on to say that according to McAuliffe's attorney James Cooper, the focus of the investigation is not on the Wang donations, but questions over foreign sources of personal income and whether the governor lobbied on behalf of foreign interests without registering as a foreign agent.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe invited the Chinese businessman whose donations to him have been named as a focus of Justice Department investigators to a 2013 fundraiser at Hillary Clinton’s personal Washington, D.C., residence.
Wang Wenliang, a Chinese national with U.S. permanent residency, briefly shook Clinton’s hand at the Sept. 30 event, a representative for Wang told TIME. An American company controlled by Wang made a $60,000 contribution to McAuliffe’s campaign three weeks before the fundraiser. Less than a month later, a separate Wang company pledged $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation, the first of several donations that eventually totaled $2 million.
The fundraiser was one of at least three interactions between Wang and McAuliffe, according to the businessman’s representative. McAuliffe initially told reporters this week he could not remember ever meeting Wang, though he later clarified that his staff had informed him of several likely meetings. “I did no deals,” McAuliffe said Wednesday in a radio interview. “I would not know the man if he sat in the chair next to me.”
The relationship between McAuliffe and Wang has been under scrutiny since CNN reported that the FBI and Justice Department’s public integrity division were investigating McAuliffe. Among the donations that were of interest to investigators, according to CNN, were a total of $120,000 in contributions to McAuliffe from a company controlled by Wang. Foreigners with permanent residency in the U.S. are allowed to make donations to campaigns under U.S. election laws, and corporations are allowed to make direct donations in Virginia.
James W. Cooper, an attorney at Arnold and Porter who has been hired by McAuliffe, told reporters Wednesday that Justice Department officials had told him the focus of investigation was not the Wang donations, but questions over foreign sources of personal income and whether the governor lobbied on behalf of foreign interests without registering as a foreign agent. Cooper said that the Justice Department told him there had been no findings of wrongdoing by the governor.
In a statement to TIME, the Justice Department declined to clarify the investigation’s focus. “As a matter of policy, the department generally neither confirms nor denies whether a matter is under investigation,” Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr told TIME.
Cooper also went on to say "all of this income is from the governor's time as a private citizen and the businessman who did deals that were well publicized around the world. So the fact that he had foreign income was not remarkable."
According to Wang's representative, a second meeting between McAuliffe and Wang took place in the state capital of Richmond after McAuliffe's election to discuss an expansion of a soybean export agreement between Wang and the state. A third meeting occurred at a dinner in Washington organized by former South Carolina governor Jim Hodges, who has registered as a federal lobbyist for one of Wang's companies.
While it's unclear exactly where all of this tangled web leads, we eagerly await the end result of the investigation which will detail at best another case of crony capitalism, and at worst yet another case of flat out corruption.