Rep. Jack Kingston, in a GOP primary runoff for the Georgia U.S. Senate seat, returned $80,000 in campaign donations linked to Khalid Satary, a Palestinian businessman convicted of music piracy and facing a deportation order. KENT D. JOHNSON/KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM
Photo: Kent D. Johnson
Photo: Kent D. Johnson

Kingston knew source of funds, attorney says

An Atlanta attorney claims he informed Rep. Jack Kingston’s U.S. Senate campaign six weeks ago about potentially illegal contributions to his campaign and the criminal background of Khalid Satary, a Palestinian who allegedly orchestrated the fundraiser where the funds were collected.

Alex Kaufman said he and his client, a former business associate of Satary’s, told the campaign that money donated at the Dec. 6 fundraiser came from bundled checks from employees who were given “bonuses” and told to contribute to the congressman’s Senate campaign. Kaufman said he also told the campaign he intended to take the information to the FBI.

Kaufman’s account of a face-to-face meeting with Kingston’s campaign attorney and an attorney for the Georgia Republican Party on May 1 contradicts what Kingston told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an interview last week. In that interview, Kingston said he had no knowledge of Satary’s criminal past or that his campaign had received potentially illegal contributions.

Two days after the interview, Kingston pledged to return $80,000 collected at the fundraiser. When asked about Kaufman’s assertions Thursday, Kingston’s campaign again denied any knowledge of Satary, or that his campaign was previously informed about potentially illegal campaign contributions.

Kingston spokesman Chris Crawford confirmed that Kingston’s campaign attorney, John Eunice, attended the May 1 meeting with Kaufman and his client, Bill Miller, a former employee of one of the companies involved in the fundraiser who had a business dispute with Satary.

“At this meeting, our campaign was informed of an internal dispute among former business associates. We immediately reviewed our internal processes and confirmed we were in full compliance with the law and federal regulations,” he said. Crawford said all the disputed donations to Kingston’s campaign have now been returned.

Kaufman offered a starkly different account of the May 1 meeting. He said he presented Eunice with a packet of information on Satary’s criminal past, which included the details of his 2005 conviction for music piracy and three-year sentence in federal prison.

Kaufman also invited to the meeting Anne Lewis, lawyer for the Georgia Republican Party and a campaign finance expert. Lewis confirmed her attendance at the meeting but declined to discuss what was said.

Kaufman said he told Eunice and Lewis his clients were going to the FBI with their claims about the fundraiser.

“We were concerned for the Kingston campaign,” said Kaufman. “I invited Anne Lewis as well because of my concern for the Republican Party.”

Kaufman, a business litigator with an Atlanta law firm, is general counsel for the GOP in the 6th Congressional District. He also served as an intern in the office of executive counsel under Gov. Sonny Perdue, but he said he is not involved in the campaign of Kingston’s GOP opponent David Perdue, a cousin of the former governor.

“We’re not out to get (Kingston). We were out to help him,” Kaufman said. “We were going to give enough time to go to the authorities and they could go with us. … They either didn’t take it seriously or they had conflicting information.”

The AJC has confirmed that there is a federal investigation into the fundraiser. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia issued a statement June 6 saying the Kingston campaign was not suspected of criminal wrongdoing and is not the target of an investigation.

A Google search on Satary’s name — one of the items in the packet Kaufman said he gave Eunice — turns up his criminal conviction and his alias, “DJ Rock,” which he used to promote his counterfeit CD operation, valued at the time at $50 million.

Satary, 41, was released from prison in 2008 and began founding a series of heath care-related business. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has attempted to deport him but has been unable to get a foreign power — including Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization — to accept him.

Employees for two of those businesses — urinalysis testing firm Confirmatrix Labs and Nue Medical Consulting, which offers billing and other services — took part in the fundraiser that raised at least $80,052 for Kingston’s campaign at Chateau Elan Winery and Resort. The event raised so much money that the two companies are Kingston’s No. 1 and No. 4 contributors, according to the non-profit Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks federal campaign money.

Miller, the former Nue Medical employee and Kaufman’s client, said he helped organize the fundraiser and a more intimate dinner that followed. He claims employees received “bonus” checks before the event and were encouraged to pass most of the money on to the Savannah Republican’s campaign. The AJC has seen one bonus check and matched it with a contribution given a few days later.

Miller’s split with Nue Medical was not amicable. His business partner is being sued by both Nue Medical and Confirmatrix on grounds that he violated an agreement not to compete with the companies by founding a pain management clinic in Henry County. The lawsuit has spawned bitter accusations on both sides, court records show.

In his June 4 interview with the AJC, Kingston claimed he does not recall Khalid Satary, and downplayed his relationship with the firms behind the Dec. 6, 2013, fundraiser.

“They are not people I have a daily, weekly or regular discussion or correspondence with,” he said.

But the AJC has learned new details of contacts Kingston had with Satary and the companies he’s associated with.

Kingston attended a ribbon-cutting for Confirmatrix Dec. 6, 2013, just hours before he attended the fundraiser hosted by Confirmatrix and Nue Medical. Photos of the ribbon-cutting appear on Kingston’s campaign Facebook page.

“The ribbon cutting was hosted by the Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce,” Crawford said. “Mr. Kingston attended as a special guest to celebrate the creation of new jobs in Georgia.”

The AJC previously reported that Richard Sasnett, vice president of sales for Confirmatrix, was named in April to Kingston’s campaign finance committee. The campaign removed Sasnett from his role last week at the same time that it pledged to return the disputed donations.

The Kingston campaign also confirmed to the AJC that Kingston’s wife, Libby Kingston, attended a Jan. 24 performance of the National Arab Orchestra at The Woodruff Arts Center as the guest of Nue Medical, run by Satary’s 19-year-old son. Crawford also attended the event, as did the campaign’s finance director.

Crawford said he did not recall meeting Khalid Satary, but said his son, Jordan, was there.

“We were invited to attend the performance as we have been invited to many events all around Georgia by a great number of individuals,” Crawford said. “Once there, we were escorted to seats in the balcony where we exchanged pleasantries with those sitting around us.”

Crawford said Miller extended the invitation to attend the performance.

Miller, a political consultant and marketing specialist, said Satary hired him to work on special projects, including cleaning up Satary’s reputation. Miller provided the AJC with a document called “Project Disappear” which was his proposal to flood the internet with positive social media profiles of Satary in an effort to push down his conviction to the second page of a Google search. Miller said he also provided the same information to the Kingston campaign at the May 1 meeting.

He said he was tasked by Satary to put together the Kingston event. Confirmatrix CEO Wes Warrington told the AJC that the idea for the fundraiser came from vice president Richard Sasnett and that Nue Medical was asked to provide logistics.

Emory University political science professor Merle Black said the gradual revelations of Kingston’s links to Satary and the companies linked to him are damaging, even if the congressman is not part of the federal investigation.

“He needs to talk to somebody or fire somebody in the campaign,” he told Channel 2 Action News. “When it dribbles out like this, it hurts.”

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Channel 2 Action News political reporter Lori Geary contributed to this report.

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