Court Battles

Ex-RNC, Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy charged in covert lobbying scheme

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Elliott Broidy, a former top Republican National Committee (RNC) fundraiser, has been charged with conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent as part of a back channel effort to lobby the Justice Department. 

Court documents unsealed Thursday allege that Broidy conspired with others to unsuccessfully lobby the Department of Justice to drop a probe into the $4.5 billion embezzlement scandal involving Malaysia’s state-owned investment fund, 1MDB. 

The documents say that Broidy also unsuccessfully lobbied the Trump administration and Justice Department to arrange for the “removal and return” of a Chinese national living in the United States.

Prosecutors detail the scheme in a criminal information filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., on Thursday that charges Broidy with one count of conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent. The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) requires lobbyists to disclose work for foreign entities.

A criminal information often proceeds a guilty plea. 

Two other individuals named in the charging document — Nickie Mali Lum Davis and George Higginbotham — have already entered guilty pleas. Davis pleaded guilty in Hawaii federal court in August to participating in the illicit scheme. Higginbotham, a former Justice Department official, pleaded guilty at the end of 2018. 

The filing alleges that Broidy was paid at least $6 million upfront by Malaysian fugitive Jho Low, who has been charged in the embezzlement scheme, and promised up to an additional $75 million if he was successful in lobbying the Justice Department on the probe. Low is not named in the document, but it describes Broidy as receiving the money from a wealthy business person living in East Asia who has been charged separately in the 1MDB scheme. 

Low has denied any wrongdoing.

Broidy served as RNC deputy finance chairman between 2017 and 2018, stepping down following reports that he allegedly paid off a Playboy Playmate who claimed he had impregnated her. He was working for the RNC at the time of his alleged lobbying work for Low.

Broidy was also a major fundraiser for President Trump’s 2016 campaign and inauguration.

In 2017, he donated to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). He also gave to Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) and former Reps. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) in the 2018 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Broidy follows multiple other GOP operatives in Trump’s orbit who have been charged recently.

Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, who was a top adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign, was arrested in August and charged with defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors who gave money to a group claiming they would build the border wall.

In May, Washington lobbyist W. Samuel Patten was released from probation two years early for cooperating with investigators in a case against Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was jailed for tax fraud and conspiracy.

Patten was sentenced to three years of probation in 2019 for violating FARA. He worked as an unregistered foreign agent for the Ukrainians and was a consultant to Cambridge Analytica.

—Updated at 4:06 p.m.

Tags 1MDB Darrell Issa Donald Trump Elliott Broidy Jeff Denham Kevin McCarthy Patrick McHenry Paul Manafort Playboy
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