COLUMBIA — U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina is among several members of Congress who received political contributions from a Soviet-born businessman arrested Wednesday on federal charges of violating campaign finance laws to influence American politicians.
Wilson said in a statement he had no knowledge there was anything improper with the $5,400 in contributions.
Wilson, a member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, said he will return the money immediately.
Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, both U.S. citizens born in the former Soviet republics of Belarus and Ukraine, respectively, were allegedly engaged in a scheme to funnel foreign money to American political candidates to buy potential influence, according to the indictment.
The businessmen have been helping President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, in his efforts to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, The Wall Street Journal reported. The indictment does not mention Giuliani.
Federal fundraising records show Fruman donated to two congressmen in June 2018: Wilson, R-Springdale, and now-former U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Tex. Specifically, he made two contributions to Wilson's campaign for $2,700 each on June 12, 2018.
Fruman appears to have also made donations to several other Republican congressman with a misspelled version of his name, "Igor Furman," which authorities alleges was done intentionally to avoid further scrutiny.
Wilson has met Fruman "in a campaign capacity," he said, but did not make any commitments to do anything in exchange for the contributions. Wilson said he has not been contacted or interviewed by legal authorities in connection with the investigation.
Sessions appears to be referenced in the indictment as "Congressman-1" and was allegedly enlisted to help oust the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine at the time, Marie Yovanovitch. Trump removed Yovanovitch from her post this spring.
Unlike Sessions, who penned a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking for Yovanovitch's removal, Wilson said he never urged the Trump administration to remove her.
Wilson raised more than $1.2 million overall for his 2018 reelection campaign.