While the conviction of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and the guilty plea of Michael Cohen dominate headlines, a federal investigation continues into how another associate of President Donald Trump, Elliott Broidy, sought to cash in on his access to the administration.
Federal investigators looking into whether the longtime Republican fundraiser offered to help foreign officials secure actions from the Trump administration – including extraditing a Chinese dissident who is living in the United States and ending a Justice Department investigation into a development fund run by the Malaysian government, in exchange for tens of millions of dollars, the Washington Post reports. Broidy denies any such activity. "Elliott Broidy has never agreed to work for, been retained by, nor been compensated by any foreign government for any interaction with the United States government, ever," wrote his lawyer Chris Clark in an emailed statement provided by a colleague. "Any implication to the contrary is a lie."
The investigation into Broidy’s activities comes nearly nine years after he pleaded guilty in New York to a felony charge stemming from his involvement in a pay-to-play kickback scheme involving then-state Comptroller Alan Hevesi.
The scheme came out of an effort to get a $250 million investment from the New York State Common Retirement Fund into Markstone Capital Group, a private equity firm Broidy founded in Low Angeles. Broidy paid $1 million in gifts to officials in the comptroller’s office, according to then-state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.
“Broidy acknowledged that he had an agreement or understanding with certain high-ranking OSC officials,” Cuomo said in a 2009 statement announcing Broidy’s guilty plea. “In exchange for certain benefits from Broidy, the OSC officials would exercise their judgment or discretion to benefit Markstone.”
But in order to make the payments, Broidy had to be creative. He got money to David Loglisci, then the chief investment officer at OSC, by investing $300,000 in a movie his brothers were producing called “Chooch.” A family of another OSC officer got a $380,000 consulting agreement over two years. The girlfriend of another official got her living expenses, rent and hospital bills covered by Broidy at a cost of more than $90,000. Monthly payments of $5,500 went to a relative of the girlfriend though a sham loan agreement.
More relatives of OSC staffers also get in the action. At least five trips to Israel and one to Italy were subsidized by Broidy, including at least $75,000 spent on first-class air tickets, hotel suites and a helicopter tour, among other expenses. False invoices and money funneled through charities made it all happen, according to Cuomo.
Broidy avoided prison time by pleading guilty to one felony count – later reduced to a misdemeanor in exchange for being “the final nail in the coffin” for the case against Hevesi, Reuters reported in 2012. He also had to pay back $18 million in investment fees that the state pension fund had paid to him as part of the scheme.
More recently, Broidy has come under scrutiny for his involvement with Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney. Cohen arranged a $1.6 million payment to former Playboy playmate Shera Bechard in late 2017 using the same shell company that he used to process hush-money agreements with women alleging affairs with Trump. While some media reported that the payment to Bechard – who was then co-chair of the Republican National Committee’s finance committee – was made to conceal that Broidy had impregnated her and paid for her to have an abortion, suspicions have swirled that the payment was actually a way for Broidy to help Trump conceal an affair with Bechard in order to leverage his access to Trump.
Broidy readily admitted to the affair and resigned from his job as finance chair of the Republican National Committee when the payment to Bechard was revealed. But some observers find that even more suspicious, wondering why Broidy would immediately come forward and admit this, why he paid so much more than Trump had to pay Stormy Daniels in hush money when Broidy was just a comparatively unknown private citizen and noting that Broidy, unlike Trump, has no known past infidelities. The key difference? By the time Broidy paid Bechard, Trump had become president. If the president had paid for an abortion, it could offend his religious and socially conservative supporters.
“What if Broidy was actually faced with the choice of either falsely confessing to impregnating Bechard or, in the alternative, candidly confessing to having paid a seven-figure bribe to the president of the United States?” Colorado University law professor Paul Campos wrote New York Magazine on May 8. “That would certainly explain his otherwise remarkable willingness to instantly confess to a reporter the very secret he had supposedly paid so much money to keep out of the public eye.” Among the facts Campos cited to substantiate his theory was Broidy’s past bribing of the New York comptroller, which Campos contended shows Broidy is willing to bribe public officials.
Broidy and Bechard, however, both say it was Broidy, not Trump, who had the affair with and impregnated Bechard. In July, Bechard, filed a lawsuit claiming that Broidy hasn't kept up with his payments required by the agreement. (Broidy said that Bechard's attorney breached the agreement's secrecy and thus voided it.) In her complaint, Bechard states that she and Broidy had an affair and impregnated her.
This story has been updated to include a comment from Broidy's attorney and to note the suit filed by Bechard.
NEXT STORY: Can New York meet its own energy initiatives?