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Ted Lieu allegedly channeled campaign funds for personal use

Trump is currently sitting in a kangaroo court for an imaginary felony predicted on time-barred misdemeanors tied to his alleged misuse of campaign funds. While that’s happening, Red State’s Jennifer Van Laar has obtained evidence showing that Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) sent money from his campaign to his wife’s school board campaign and then funneled that money back to his personal coffers. If this evidence is correct, it indicates both regulatory and ethical wrongdoing.

Ted Lieu is a Stanford grad and Georgetown lawyer who clerked in the Ninth Circuit before becoming a member of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps in the Air Force in the late 1990s. Then, he went into politics, eventually entering the California legislature in 2004 and the House in 2015.

Given his academic background, you’d think Lieu would be a smart guy, even if he’s a leftist. Weirdly, he’s not, as he repeatedly shows in his tweets. (Or maybe not so weirdly. After all, Yale and UVA grad Rep. Sheila Lee says the moon is made up of gas and the sun is “almost” impossible to go near.) Here’s just a sampling of the torrent of bile, ignorance, and mindless partisan propaganda that he routinely spews:

Then there’s this one, which is a doozy, considering that Lieu is a lawyer:

Also, did you know that Jesus Christ, who believed in Jewish law (which is strongly anti-homosexual), supported homosexuality? Yes, he did, according to Lieu, something we can infer because Jesus never actually prohibited it:

That’s some sophisticated historical and doctrinal analysis. NOT.

What I hope you noticed about all those Ted moments is how firmly Lieu has ensconced himself on the moral high ground, right up to his holier-than-yours understanding of Jesus Christ. He is a pure and good person. Anyone who disagrees with him is a criminal and, quite possibly, evil. That makes Van Laar’s investigation interesting, especially since it’s one in a series of Red State exposés showing that Lieu’s politics often benefit his family:

Since 2019, RedState has broken numerous stories about Democrat Rep. Ted Lieu’s potentially illegal habit of spending campaign funds on expenses that personally benefit him and his family, such as $10,000 to the Torrance Education Foundation, which sponsors his sons’ robotics team, $15,000 to his wife’s school board campaign, and a $50,000 contribution to the university at which his eldest son matriculated a couple of years later (Stanford).

Those are indirect benefits, though. Sleazy, but not actionable. The most recent research into Lieu’s donations, though, starts looking, not just sleazy, but legitimately violative of campaign financing rules.

According to the FEC records that Van Laar turned up, Lieu’s campaign has donated $25,000 to his wife’s school board campaign, as well as another $10,000 to that same Torrance Education Foundation. So far, that’s all still in the sleazy category.

But wait! There’s more. Van Laar also reveals that Betty Lieu’s campaign received money from another Lieu-friendly source: The Asian American Forward PAC, which one of Lieu’s donors founded and controls. Ultimately, she got 33% of her funding from Lieu’s campaign, a Lieu-friendly PAC, and four California Democrat politicians. Mrs. Lieu also got 27% of her campaigns from four corporations that also donate to Ted. (You can see all the details here.)

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “So what? This is just politics as usual,” and you’d be right—up to a point. Where things get interesting is that Betty Lieu also took out a $60,000 loan in addition to all those contributions. And then, if I read Van Laar correctly, Lieu used all the donations to repay the loan:

For perspective, other candidates running for a seat on the Torrance Unified School District board in 2018 raised about $1,500 as of a few weeks before election day, according to a local newspaper. Why would it take Betty Lieu $60,000 to win the seat?

The Betty Lieu for School Board campaign has now repaid the $60,000 loan from the Lieus, thanks to the generosity of these donors and others the Congressman solicited back in 2020, and his own donors who unwittingly helped pay it off via their contributions to Ted’s congressional campaign.

Lieu actually sent out an email under the “Ted Lieu for Congress” heading, asking people to help retire that debt: “Betty still has some campaign debt from her first race. If you can help her clear that it would be a big boost for her re-election campaign.” As Van Laar writes sarcastically:

What a caring husband, asking donors to help retire Betty’s school board campaign debt. He left out the part about that being debt owed to him personally.

In other words, apparently, the Lieus loaned Betty’s campaign $60,000 dollars. In addition, Ted Lieu for Congress and a variety of people and entities that support Ted Lieu for Congress donated in weirdly disproportionate amounts to Betty Lieu’s school board campaign. And then the campaign took those donations and repaid the Lieus’ personal $60,000 loan.

According to Van Laar, what Ted and Betty did was a big no-no:

While federal election law allows federal candidates to use their email list or other campaign resources to solicit contributions for other candidates and transfer campaign funds to other candidates, they are prohibited from converting campaign funds to personal use or using campaign funds to make a gift or donation to a family member under both federal election law and House ethics rules.

The whole thing smells bad, and I urge you to read Van Laar’s much more detailed analysis of what Ted did and how, according to her, it runs afoul of both practical rules and ethical principles.

As for me—and I bet, as for you, too—when I contrast Lieu’s conduct with the fact that Donald Trump used personal funds to pay off a nuisance claim by a woman who attested in writing to the fact that she never slept with him and is now being tried for a felony…well, I am reminded that one of the hallmarks of a dictatorship is two-tiered justice. All totalitarian countries have one set of rules for the in-crowd and one set for the enemies of the state. Liberty requires equal justice for all, not just for the court favorites.

Image by Andrea Widburg, editing a YouTube screen grab.

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