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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Virginia gubernatorial candidate Pete Snyder boasted about a cash haul for his COVID-19 relief nonprofit last year that was more than five times what it had estimated raising in a sworn statement to the IRS, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The Virginia 30 Day Fund's mission is central to Snyder's political brand. It's a calling card for the Republican in a crowded primary in a bellwether off-year race. But early, apparently erroneous disclosures to the IRS allowed the group to shield from public view key information about its operators, operations and finances.

What's new: Axios obtained a copy of the Virginia 30 Day Fund's application for tax exemption, dated April 10, 2020. It was signed by the group's treasurer.

  • The IRS filing, submitted under penalty of perjury, certified the group had not raised, and did not expect to raise, more than $50,000 per year during its first three years.
  • Nonprofits that bring in more than $50,000 per year are required to provide far more granular information to the IRS, including details about executive compensation, conflict of interest policies, vendor contracts and business relationships among the groups' directors.

Between the lines: Days before the filing, on April 6, Snyder told The Washington Post he and his wife had put up $100,000 in seed money for the group.

  • And on April 8, Snyder told Richmond's NBC affiliate the group had already "raised over a quarter of (a) million dollars." He repeated the same number in a Facebook post the following day.
  • By mid-June, the Virginia 30 Day Fund had raised nearly $2.8 million, according to Snyder, who in January stepped down from his position with the group and announced his run for governor.

Background: Snyder, a businessman and political consultant, formed the Virginia 30 Day Fund with his wife to provide forgivable loans to businesses struggling amid the pandemic and its resulting economic fallout.

  • Snyder's campaign website cites the nonprofit to bolster his credentials as a "true champion of small business."

What they're saying: The Snyder campaign referred questions about the discrepancies to the Virginia 30 Day Fund, which attributed them to the organization's rapid growth.

  • “The Virginia 30 Day Fund was formed in record time to help small businesses in need of a lifeline during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic," Jim Cheng, the group's chairman, said in an emailed statement.
  • "We drafted filings and started fundraising immediately to save small businesses. In fact, we named the organization '30 Day Fund' because we thought we would only be in operation for 30 days," Cheng said. "We did not anticipate at formation the overwhelming future success of the project, helping thousands of small businesses in Virginia and across the nation.”

The bottom line: Cheng did not address more specific questions about the disconnect between the information in the initial IRS filing and the details shared publicly by Snyder in the days before that filing was submitted.

Go deeper

China's Xi swipes at U.S.: "Countries shouldn't impose rules on others"

China's President Xi Jinping during a video summit in Beijing on Friday. Photo: Li Xueren/Xinhua via Getty Images

China's President Xi Jinping warned on Tuesday against "bossing others around or meddling in others' internal affairs" and called for "more fair and equitable" global governance.

Why it matters: Xi's thinly veiled swipes at the U.S. during an online speech at the Boao Forum for Asia economic forum come at a time of heightened tension between Beijing and Washington over trade, human rights and China's strategic and economic ambitions.

U.S. ambassador to Russia will return home briefly: State Department

John Sullivan, U.S. Ambassador to Russia, during a briefing in Moscow in 2015. Photo: Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS via Getty Images

The State Department said Monday that the U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, will now be returning to the United States this week before returning to Moscow "in the coming weeks."

Why this matters: The statement, from a State Department spokesperson, comes just hours after Axios reported that Sullivan had indicated he intended to stand his ground and stay in Russia after the Kremlin “advised” him to return home to talk with his team.

Scoop: Leaked Ukraine memo reveals scope of Russia's aggression

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits a military exposition in Sevastopol, Crimea, in Jan. 2020. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Russia has been holding last-minute military exercises near commercial shipping lanes in the Black Sea that threaten to strangle Ukraine's economy, according to an internal document from Ukraine's ministry of defense reviewed by Axios.

Why it matters: With the eyes of the world on the massive buildup of troops in eastern Ukraine, the leaked memo shows Russian forces escalating their presence on all sides of the Ukrainian border.