Major Republican funding group cuts off support for Mike Coffman

Former U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, a candidate for Aurora mayor.

Two Soviet-born U.S. citizens, both business associates of Rudy Giuliani who were arrested at Dulles International Airport Thursday on charges of campaign finance violations, sent money to a political action committee that routed some of those dollars into the 2018 campaign of then-U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, now a candidate for Aurora mayor.

According to the Wall Street Journal, federal prosecutors claim Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, associates of Giuliani, one of President Trump's personal attorneys, routed $900,549 to GOP political action committees and candidates, beginning in 2016.

Federal investigators believe at least part of the money given to PACs included straw donations — contributions made to hide the names of the true donors or to skirt federal rules on campaign contribution limits. Some of those donors may have been from a foreign country, court papers said.

In 2018, they gave $161,000 to Protect the House, a political action committee which intended to help the GOP maintain control of the U.S. House of Representatives, records show. 

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Protect the House spent just under $25.9 million in the 2018 election cycle. The largest check -- $9.5 million -- went to the Republican National Congressional Committee. Another $1.5 million went to the Great America Committee, which backs Vice President Mike Pence, and which also took in $10,000 in direct contributions from Parnas and Fruman.

Among the 25 GOP candidates who received Protect the House funds in 2018 was the campaign committee for then-U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora, which took in $89,891.15, according to Federal Election Commission records. Coffman's campaign also took $7,530.38 from Protect the House on Feb. 13 of 2019. Prosecutors allege that some of the funds may have been foreign money.

Candidates have little control over where political action committees get their money, although they can turn down cash from committees they disagree with.

Coffman's mayoral campaign did not return a call for comment. However, Tyler Sandberg, Coffman's campaign manager in 2014 and 2018, said in a tweet that "Coffman was originally blocked from receiving funds from [Protect the House] for being so critical of Trump." Coffman was added later in the cycle, although "it didn't stop him from continuing to criticize Trump," Sandberg said.

The two men also routed $325,000 to the pro-Trump super PAC, America First Action, through a company called Global Energy Producers, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Parnas also gave $52,700 to two Trump political action committees, another $33,400 to the Republican National Committee and a total of  $13,238 to 20 GOP state parties. Colorado was not among those recipients.

In 2018, the pair gave another $31,700 directly to congressional candidates, including Reps. Pete Sessions of Texas and Joe Wilson of South Carolina.

CORRECTION: Rudy Giuliani's name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.

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