On Friday, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam called on his main Republican opponent, U.S. Representative Ron DeSantis, to return $213,000 from a donor whose business is now in question.
Ahmad “Andy” Khawaja is the CEO of California-based Allied Wallet, an e-commerce website with a client list that includes a debt collector who has demanded payments from people who have never taken out loans, an offshore gambling company, porn sites and a phone. -sex business that served men with diaper and rape fantasies, according to an article published Thursday by the Associated Press.
The Lebanese-born businessman is one of the biggest donors to DeSantis’ gubernatorial campaign. He personally contributed $113,000 to DeSantis and a political action committee aligned with his campaign, including a July 20 check for $10,000. The DeSantis Political Committee received an additional $100,000 through E-Payment Solutions, Inc., a Khawaja company registered in 2007.
Prior to this election cycle, Khawaja had primarily donated to Democrats, including $4 million in donations to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
“DeSantis continues to accept contributions from shabby liberal swamp donor Ahmad Khawaja,” Putnam spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice said in a press release Friday. “With disturbing new information coming to light about Mr. Khawaja, it would be in the congressman’s best interest to disavow his top liberal donor and return the $213,000 in contributions.”
DeSantis’ campaign did not respond to questions about donations. Campaign manager Brad Herold previously told Politico that Khawaja and DeSantis know each other.
“(Khawaja) has given to Democrats in the past, but like many disgruntled moderates and former Democrats, he loves President Trump,” Herold said. told Politico in May. “He supports Ron’s campaign because he is the only candidate who has proven that he will defend the president.”
According to the AP story, Khawaja began donating to Republicans after having lunch with Republican fundraiser Elliot Broidy.
Broidy served on DeSantis’ national fundraising team. However, Broidy has pulled out of the campaign, DeSantis spokesman Dave Vasquez previously said. Schedules / Announcementand his position within the Republican National Committee after the the wall street journal reported he paid $1.6 million to a woman he got pregnant and then helped get an abortion.
Khawaja’s company, Allied Wallet, denied any wrongdoing and told the AP that its investigation was “a political success because of Allied Wallet’s contribution to the inauguration of President Donald Trump and support for his tax reduction program.
The AP reported that internal documents showed Allied Wallet helped hide the companies’ tracks in ways that circumvent bank and credit card rules. He created dormant shell companies for clients and taught them how to circumvent compliance checks for financial institutions.
In some cases, the company was warned that its actions could be illegal, according to the report, and its tactics appeared intended to flout US laws to prevent money laundering.
Lagging in the polls weeks before the Aug. 28 primary, Putnam’s campaign has gone on the offensive lately. The campaign criticized DeSantis’ campaign for its ties to the billionaire Koch brothers, who for a decade helped fund conservative candidates across the country. but have recently caught the ire of President Donald Trump.
On Friday, the Putnam campaign released a new ad featuring DeSantis as a creature of Washington, calling him “DC DeSantis.”
The announcement highlights DeSantis’ vote for raising the debt ceiling for three months in 2013 while Republicans and President Barack Obama brokered a budget deal. The bill also withheld the salaries of members of Congress if they have not adopted a budget.
Schedules / Announcement writer Emily L. Mahoney contributed to this report.