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Ray LaHood, U.S. secretary of transportation, speaks during the U.S. Export-Import Bank annual conference in Washington, D.C., on April 5, 2013. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood took $50,000 from an associate of a Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire at the center of a sprawling scheme of illegal foreign campaign contributions, federal prosecutors revealed Wednesday.

Why it matters: LaHood, a former Republican congressman from Illinois and a member of President Obama's Cabinet, agreed to repay the money, pay a $40,000 fine and cooperate with prosecutors to settle the matter. The Justice Department detailed the illicit campaign donation scheme in a statement on Wednesday.

What's happening: According to a DOJ news release, LaHood's conduct was a "separate and unrelated matter" from the campaign finance violations.

  • The point of overlap was a Virginia businessman named Toufic Baaklini, who loaned LaHood $50,000 in 2012, while he was in office. LaHood did not disclose the loan in ethics filings.
  • According to prosecutors, LaHood "understood at the time" that the money was actually coming from a Baalkini associate named Gilbert Chagoury, and "made misleading statements to FBI agents" investigating the payment.

Chagoury is a Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire whom the State Department denied entry into the U.S. in 2015.

  • According to the DOJ, Chagoury — with the assistance of Baaklini and another associate named Joseph Arsan — orchestrated a massive scheme to illegally funnel foreign money into U.S. elections.
  • In a deferred prosecution agreement, Chagoury admitted to providing $180,000 to U.S. individuals who used the money to make contributions to four federal political candidates from 2012 through 2016. The campaigns that benefitted are not named, nor are the "straw" donors, or the donors who illicitly funneled Chagoury's money to those campaigns.

Chagoury was a major donor to the Clinton Foundation, and donated nearly half a million dollars to a Clinton-aligned voter registration group during President Clinton's 1996 reelection campaign.

  • Baaklini, a Virginia resident, preferred backing Republicans. Campaign finance records show a number of small contributions to President Trump's reelection campaign last year.
  • In 2016, when the alleged straw donation scheme took place, Baaklini gave to a number of GOP campaigns and party committees.
  • He also chipped in $2,700 to the House campaign of LaHood's son Darin, who now represents the same seat his father once did.

Go deeper

Judge voids 2016 Trump campaign staffer's non-disclosure agreement

Former President Trump during the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, in February. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A non-disclosure agreement signed by a 2016 Trump campaign staffer cannot be enforced because it's too vague, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

Why it matters: The case of former Hispanic outreach director Jessica Denson, who in a separate suit in 2017 alleged she experienced discrimination and harassment on the campaign, is one of several where Trump "went after former aides that criticized him or his campaign" in order to "silence" them, the New York Times notes.

First-time homebuyers shrink as prices spike

Data: National Association of Realtors; Chart: Axios Visuals

Home sales cooled as prices continued to heat up in August.

Driving the news: The share of first-time existing homebuyers (29%) last month was the smallest in two years, according to new data from the National Association of Realtors.

Mike Allen, author of AM
1 hour ago - World

Airbnb doubles number of Afghan refugees it will house to 40,000

Afghan refugees arriving at Dulles International Airport in Virginia in August 2021. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky and co-founder Joe Gebbia said during a visit to Washington on Wednesday that they're offering temporary housing to 40,000 Afghan refugees worldwide, doubling a previous commitment.

The big picture: The housing typically lasts several weeks, and Airbnb and Airbnb.org provide subsidies to hosts.