Between 2017 and 2019, Republican Party campaigns and political committees received more than $190,000 from a person with close and apparently official connections to the Cambodian government. Over the same period, this donor, a man named Leewood Phu who first started making political contributions in late 2017, was granted entry to multiple private meetings and events, where he encountered high-ranking officials such as President Trump, Vice President Pence, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and National Republican Congressional Committee chair Tom Emmer.
This is yet another example of an emerging trend identified by CREW and other observers: Individuals without a prior history of political giving have started making large contributions to President Trump’s campaign and Republicans, and these donations have often coincided with private meetings and invitations to political events. Some of these donors have ties to foreign governments, businesses, and interest groups, raising the possibility that their contributions are geared towards seeking influence for those interests. This trend suggests that influence-seekers see an opportunity during the Trump administration to gain access never seen before, and they’re taking advantage of it.
Phu, a resident of Minnesota, does not appear to have made any contributions to American federal political campaigns or committees prior to 2017. In September of that year, however, he made two contributions in support of a local congressman, Rep. Tom Emmer. The following year, leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, Phu made nearly $140,000 in additional donations to Republican campaigns and committees, giving $33,900 to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), $30,000 to the joint fundraising committee Protect The House, and $25,000 to a joint fundraising committee for the NRCC and the Republican Party of Minnesota. In 2019, Phu gave another $50,000 to the NRCC, bringing his total contributions since 2017 up to more than $190,000.