Perdue campaign hammers Kingston over fundraisers involving felon

Log on to to read Sunday’s story and see video of an AJC reporter questioning U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston

Congressman Jack Kingston’s Republican U.S. Senate opponent dubbed the lawmaker an out-of-touch Washington insider Sunday after reports showed that major donations to the lawmaker came from companies linked to a felon that the U.S. government has long tried to deport.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Sunday that in late 2013, Kingston, an 11-term Republican congressman from Savannah, took in $80,052 in contributions from employees, their family members, consultants and contractors of two virtually unknown Gwinnett County companies.

Both companies are linked to Khalid A. Satary, a Palestinian who served more than three years in federal prison for running a large-scale counterfeit CD operation in the metro Atlanta area. Satary was released from prison in 2008, and he is under a federal deportation order.

After the AJC asked him about the contributions, Kingston said he was unaware of Satary’s criminal past and would return the money.

Derrick Dickey, spokesman for Kingston’s runoff opponent David Perdue, said the contributions show Kingston is out of touch.

“There were so many red flags there that should have given the congressman pause, but he’s been in Washington so long, he’s lost perspective on what is normal,” Dickey said. “This is exactly what you get from a career politicians that is more concerned about getting elected than doing what’s right.”

Kingston’s campaign quickly fired back.

"We won't be taking any fund-raising advice from David Perdue, who lined his own pockets with taxpayer money from Obama's stimulus and is now trying to use it to buy a seat in the Senate, " said Chris Crawford, Kingston's spokesman. "Did Perdue consider returning his $3.6 million golden parachute to the 7,650 Pillowtex employees who lost their jobs under his watch?"

Kingston supporter state Rep. B.J. Pak, R-Lilburn, said it is unreasonable to expect a candidate – particularly one running statewide – to know the backgrounds of every contributor.

“You are going to know some big donors but you aren’t going to know everybody,” he said. “No campaign can.”

Pak, a former federal prosecutor, said politics is “a perception game” and the connection between Kingston and Satary will likely continue to draw negative press if the investigation progresses. He said Kingston was right to return the money and should try to move on.

“That’s the best you can do. Even though they did nothing wrong, the perception is there,” he said. “This is part of the reason why people think politics are dirty.”

In the end, he said. “I think Jack is going to be fine.”

Perdue, a millionaire business executive, led the field of seven GOP Senate candidates in the May 20 primaries. Kingston came in second. Kingston’s campaign has been picking up endorsements from fellow congressmen and other GOP Senate candidates who finished behind him as the nominating race heads toward the July 22 runoff.

The winner faces Democrat Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn and the CEO of Atlanta nonprofit Points of Light. Like Perdue, she is running as an outsider hoping to fix the “dysfunction” in Washington.

Nunn’s campaign declined to comment on the contributions to Kingston’s campaign.

Most of the contributions in question came from a Dec. 6 fundraiser at the Chateau Elan Winery and Resort in Gwinnett that Kingston attended. Kingston said he does not recall much about the event, but a photo from the event, shared on the social media site Instagram, shows the congressman shaking hands with Jordan Satary, Khalid’s 19-year-old son.

Jordan contributed $6,763 toward the fundraiser and is listed as CEO of one of the companies.

One of the contributors told the AJC that employees were given bonuses and told to pocket a few hundred dollars and give the rest to Kingston. A company official denied that his employees were encouraged to contribute or were reimbursed for their contributions.

Using so-called “straw donors” is a relatively common —- but illegal —- method to circumvent federal campaign contribution limits. Such schemes to illegally bundle contributions have tainted the political campaigns of Sen. John McCain and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist in his Senate run. In April, an Indian hotel operator pleaded guilty to using straw donors to funnel more than $180,000 to three federal campaigns, including then-Sen. Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential run.

When asked if he should have been more cautious before making a personal appearance with Satary and his associates, Kingston said his Senate race has drawn a lot of new supporters.

“We have reached out in the last year and a half to all kinds of different groups in Georgia trying to talk about our campaign, ” he said. “We have a number of people who have come on board.”

The AJC has learned federal investigators are looking into the contributions, but a spokesman for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia said Kingston is not the target of an investigation. Neither Khalid Satary nor his son returned calls seeking comment last week.

“The voters deserve to know why the Satarys would go to such extremes to funnel $80,000 to Congressman Kingston and what was expected in return,” Dickey, from Perdue’s campaign, said.

Rusty Paul, former state GOP chairman and state senator, said, “Anytime you take money from somebody who is a convicted felon, it matters.”

But he added, “It’s the hidden danger of political fund raising …. when you are raising so much money, when you have quotas of thousands of dollars a day to raise, you can’t vet every donor, every person hosting a fundraiser. You can be unwittingly embarrassed, and it’s probably sheer luck it doesn’t happen more frequently.”

Combined, Kingston and Perdue raised more than $8 million for the race before the primary.