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Justice Department links former Peoria area Congressman Ray LaHood to campaign finance law violations


(WEEK) - Former Central Illinois Congressman Ray LaHood concealed from authorities that he accepted $50,000 in foreign money while serving as Secretary of Transportation in the Obama Administration, the U.S. Department of Justice reported Wednesday.

A Federal Election Commission document shows LaHood received the money from a man who contributed in 2015 to the campaign of LaHood's son and current Congressman Darin LaHood.

In a news release announcing a broader violation to U.S. election laws, the Justice Department said LaHood, 75, resolved a federal criminal investigation by paying a $40,000 fine, he agreed to cooperate with the investigation, and repaid $50,000 he received from Toufic Joseph Baaklini.

Baaklini, 58, was said to be an associate of Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury, who entered into a deferred prosecution agreement by paying a $1.8 million fine for violating campaign finance laws.

It's alleged Chagoury, 75, provided approximately $180,000 that was used to make contributions to four federal political candidates in U.S. elections, but the candidates' names were not included in the news release.

Chagoury, as a foreign national, was prohibited from contributing to any U.S. elections.

The Justice Department said LaHood received $50,000 from Baaklini in June 2012 when the former lawmaker was U.S. Transportation Secretary.

LaHood was having financial problems at the time, and admitted that he accepted a check from Baaklini with the word "loan" written on the memo portion on the check. According to the Justice Department, LaHood understood at the time that the money came from Chagoury, but failed to disclose he received the money because he didn't want to be associated with Chagoury.

LaHood also made misleading statements about the check and its source to FBI agents investigating Chagouri.

The news release said Baaklini settled his case with the government by paying a $90,000 fine and agreed to cooperate with the investigation.

Federal Election Commission documents showed Baaklini contributed $2,700 to Darin LaHood's congressional campaign in April 2015.

The Justice Department said the elder LaHood entered into a non-prosecution agreement in 2019, but its details did not become public until Wednesday.

Howard Packowitz

Jenise Rebholz

Evening Anchor, Heart of Illinois ABC

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