A federal appeals court reinstated false-statement charges yesterday against a Thai businesswoman accused of funneling foreign contributions to the Democratic National Committee and other political committees.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reinstated the charges against Pauline Kanchanalak and her sister-in-law and business associate, Duangnet "Georgie" Kronenberg.
They were indicted last year by the Justice Department's campaign finance task force.
The two are accused of using funds from foreign corporations and individuals--including Kanchanalak and her husband, Jeb--to make prohibited campaign contributions of at least $679,000 to the DNC and other U.S. political committees.
Foreigners are barred from giving what is known as "hard" money intended for federal campaigns. Kanchanalak is a Thai citizen, while Kronenberg is a permanent resident alien and is entitled to make political contributions.
Yesterday's appeals court ruling determined that citizens of foreign countries also are barred from giving "soft" money, which is money not intended for a specific federal campaign.
Kanchanalak and Kronenberg were charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the government by disguising the true source of the funds, plus multiple counts of causing the Democratic National Committee and other political committees to file false reports with the Federal Election Commission.
All of the false-statement charges except one count against Kronenberg were dismissed in two rulings late last year and early this year by U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman. He said prosecutors failed to show that Kanchanalak and Kronenberg had a significant role in the submission of statements to the FEC by the Democratic organizations. The judge also said disclosure rules did not require political committees to reveal the original sources of "soft" money.
Friedman based part of his ruling on an earlier decision that threw out much of the Justice Department's cases against another defendant in the foreign money probe, Maria Hsia. But a D.C. Circuit panel reversed that decision in May.
In reinstating all of the charges, the appeals court said the decision in May required reinstatement of charges against Kanchanalak and Kronenberg related to hard-money donations for use in campaigns.
The court added that a federal election reporting regulation requires reporting of the "true sources" of soft-money donations, and that the election law forbids foreign donations of soft money.
"In an effort to enhance its ability to prohibit the illegal commingling of hard and soft money receipts, the FEC required identifying information for the donors of both to assist it in tracking the flow of funds between the two," wrote Judge Patricia L. Wald. Her opinion was joined by Judges Laurence H. Silberman and David S. Tatel.
Kanchanalak's attorney did not immediately return a call seeking comment.