And Zekelman Industries made political donations in the United States — skirting or possibly violating a ban on contributions by foreigners — including $1.75 million last year to a group supporting President Trump…..
Federal Election Commission rules prohibit any foreigner from “directing, dictating, controlling, or directly or indirectly participating in the decision-making process” related to any campaign contribution, including super PACs.
Mr. Zekelman, who does not have United States citizenship, said in an interview that he did not play a role in the decision to donate. But he added that he did discuss the matter with other company executives, after a representative from America First Action approached one of Zekelman Industries’ lawyers and asked for a contribution.
“They contacted our people, our people brought it to me,” Mr. Zekelman said. “I said, great, I would love to find a way to support him.”
Mr. Zekelman said the donation was legal because the final decision was made by members of his board who are American citizens or legal residents of the United States, and the money was donated through Wheatland Tube, a United States-based subsidiary of Zekelman Industries, which he owns with his two brothers.
After The New York Times raised questions about the donation, Mickey McNamara, general counsel at Zekelman Industries and president of Wheatland Tube, said he did not recall discussing the matter with Mr. Zekelman. Mr. McNamara said he decided to make the donation without consulting with Mr. Zekelman.
In a statement, Brian O. Walsh, the president of America First Action, said the organization did not accept foreign contributions. “All contributors are expressly asked to affirm they are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident,” he said.
Adav Noti, a former associate general counsel at the Federal Election Commission, said that if Mr. Zekelman had discussed the matter with colleagues at work, he had most likely violated federal law, even if the formal decision to donate was made by others.
“This sounds pretty clearly unlawful to me,” said Mr. Noti, now chief of staff at Campaign Legal Center, which monitors election law compliance.