Hotel magnate Sant Singh Chatwal, who has lavished campaign cash on everyone from Hillary Clinton to Mayor Bill de Blasio, pleaded guilty today in Brooklyn federal court to campaign finance fraud and witness tampering, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch announced.
Mr. Chatwal, 70, who runs a chain of luxury hotels and other companies, allegedly broke federal law by using straw donors–whom he called “conduits”–to make more than $180,000 in illegal campaign contributions to three candidates in an effort to gain access and influence federal regulations, according to a federal complaint.
Prosecutors alleged that, from 2007 to 2011, Mr. Chatwal “used his employees, business associates, and contractors who performed work on his hotels … to solicit campaign contributions on Chatwal’s behalf in support of various candidates for federal office and PACs, collect these contributions, and pay reimbursements for these contributions, in violation of the Election Act.”
A source close to the investigation told the Observer the campaigns belonged to Ms. Clinton, former Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, and then-Florida Congressman Kendrick Meek, who ran an unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign in 2010. The source originally identified Majority Leader Harry Reid’s campaign, which has received Chatwal contributions, as one of the related cases, but later reached out to say that was incorrect.
Federal finance records show that a Mr. Chatwal contributed to Ms. Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. Multiple individuals with the same last name and hotel employer also gave to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and a Democratic National Committee account, the records show.
Mr. Chatwal additionally appears to be a financial supporter of two federal lawmakers in Queens: Congressman Joe Crowley, the head of the DCCC, and Congressman Gary Ackerman, who recently retired. He also gave extensively to Mr. de Blasio’s mayoral campaign.
There is no allegation, however, that the candidates participated in, or were aware of, Mr. Chatwal’s scheme.