May 17, 2022 - Politics & Policy

DOJ sues Republican fundraiser over alleged foreign agent work

Casino magnate and Republican fundraiser Steve Wynn speaks at a conference.
Billionaire Steve Wynn speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., on Wednesday, May 3, 2017. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Justice Department is suing billionaire casino mogul and high-dollar Republican fundraiser Steve Wynn to compel him to register as a foreign agent of the Chinese government, the department said Tuesday.

Driving the news: DOJ alleges Wynn operated as an unregistered foreign agent in an unsuccessful effort to press the Trump administration to extradite a fugitive Chinese billionaire.

  • In an emailed statement, Wynn's attorneys denied he has any obligation to register.

Why it matters: Wynn is a top GOP fundraiser and a former Republican National Committee finance chair before stepping down in 2018 after multiple allegations of sexual assault and harassment.

  • He's donated more than $3 million to Republican campaigns, party committees and independent political spenders this cycle alone, according to Federal Election Committee filings.

The details: DOJ says Wynn worked with a senior Chinese government official to secure the extradition of Guo Wengui, an outspoken Beijing critic and ally of former White House strategist Steve Bannon.

  • "Wynn conveyed the request directly to the then-President over dinner and by phone, and he had multiple discussions with the then-President and senior officials at the White House and National Security Council about organizing a meeting" with senior Chinese officials, DOJ alleged in a press release on the suit.

What they're saying: “Steve Wynn has never acted as an agent of the Chinese government and had no obligation to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act," said his lawyers, Reid Weingarten and Brian Heberlig of the firm Steptoe & Johnson.

  • "We respectfully disagree with the Department of Justice’s legal interpretation of FARA and look forward to proving our case in court.”

Between the lines: Another top Republican fundraiser, Elliott Broidy, pleaded guilty in 2020 to violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act for his role in pushing for Guo's extradition.

  • An alleged co-conspirator, a Hawaii businesswoman named Nicki Lum Davis, also pleaded guilty to a FARA violation as part of the scheme.
  • Her lawyers recently alleged in court filings that she was duped into accepting that plea agreement after her attorney secretly collaborated with prosectors in the case.
  • DOJ has denied there was any malfeasance behind that guilty plea.
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