AP NEWS

State to probe Lumaj campaign for payment to ‘charity’

April 3, 2019

The State Elections Enforcement Commission has initiated an investigation into Lumaj for CT, the campaign committee for Peter Lumaj who launched a failed bid for governor in 2018.

Josh Foley, a staff attorney and spokesman for the commission, said SEEC launched the investigation on March 20, but could not comment on the nature of the investigation as it is ongoing. A formal complaint against Lumaj was not filed.

Lumaj, who once claimed that President Donald Trump offered him the ambassadorship to Albania, did not immediately return a request for comment.

Hearst Connecticut Media reported in October that Lumaj donated $50,000 in surplus campaign funds to a charity that lost its 501(c)(3) status in May 2018 after never filing a tax return. The charity, Albanian Connect Inc., shares an address with Lumaj’s immigration law firm in the Bronx, according to Lumaj’s campaign finance report and IRS filings.

A termination report for Lumaj’s campaign, filed Feb. 25, 2019, shows Lumaj’s campaign donated another $6,356 to Albanian Connect Inc. on Jan. 19.

Albanian Connect Inc. still does not have a website, phone number or social media presence, and has never registered with the New York State Attorney General’s Charities Bureau.

Michael Brandi, general counsel and executive director of the State Elections Enforcement Commission, told Hearst in October that all statewide candidates are subject to an audit by the commission.

“In that process we would look at how they distribute surplus,” he said at the time.

Candidates who did not participate in the state’s Citizens Elections Program can donate surplus campaign funds to charity if it is a tax exempt 501(c)(3) or veterans organization registered with the IRS. Lumaj, who missed the primary after he fell short of the required number of delegates at the Republican Party’s convention, did not participate in the state-funded program.

As of March 11, Albanian Connect has not re-applied to be a 501(c)(3), which grants eligibility to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions, according to information provided by the Internal Revenue Service.

During a Hearst Connecticut Media investigation in April 2018, a reporter visited Lumaj’s law office in the Bronx to find it closed. The words “Immigration Law Office” were posted to the door with no indication the small office might also share space with a nonprofit.

Last month Lumaj started his own political consulting firm, Praetorian Strategy Group, based in Hartford.

kkrasselt@hearstmediact.com; 203-842-2563; @kaitlynkrasselt