White House party crasher Tareq Salahi has his first controversy as a Virginia gubernatorial hopeful.
The owner of Maryland-based RMA Worldwide Chauffeured Transportation claims Blue Ridge Wine Way Tours, a company founded by Salahi, owes them $34,000 in unpaid limo bills. The vintner says he’s no longer involved in Blue Ridge’s operations and that this isn’t his problem.
“I pretty much put that hat up when I started the campaign up,” the reality television star told The Washington Post in a telephone interview on Thursday. “These complaints are strictly between Blue Ridge and RMA.”
RMA owner Robert Alexander said the limousine company did not initially know Blue Ridge WineWay had any affiliation with Salahi. Since finding out, they’re worried they may never be paid because of his past legal and financial woes.
“How do you squeeze blood out of a turnip?” said Alexander, who added that the company is considering legal action.
According to Alexander, a representative from Blue Ridge reached out to the limousine company last summer seeking to contract with the company to provide transportation for wine tours in Virginia. He said the company seemed legitimate and sounded like they represented Virginia’s wine industry.
When the bill came due for the 45 reservations placed, Alexander said Blue Ridge complained about the chauffeur service and did not pay. Alexander said he has since tried to reach Blue Ridge for payment but was told the company’s computers were down and RMA has had little contact with Blue Ridge in recent weeks.
“This guy’s running for governor,” Alexander said. “Maybe we can shame him into paying us. Not paying his limo bill . . . is going to ruin any smidgen of credibility he’s got left.”
But Salahi said the issue is unrelated to him or his gubernatorial campaign. Salahi said he may have also booked personal travel through RMA as a customer of Blue Ridge’s but said that does not make him responsible.
“We use so many different organizations for pickups,” Salahi said. “He’s trying to tie me into it . . . but if they’ve got a bill to settle, that’s not connected to me.”
Salahi and his former wife, Michaele Salahi, first entered the spotlight in 2009 after they crashed a White House state dinner. They kept themselves in the public eye with appearances on “Dancing with the Stars” and “Real Housewives of D.C.” The couple has since divorced.
Tareq Salahi’s campaign is apparently the subject of his latest reality venture, “In It to Win It,” which is already being filmed, according to his campaign Web site.
Salahi initially sought the 2013 Republican gubernatorial nomination but has since declared his plans to run as an independent candidate.
According to the most recent campaign finance report, he ended the five-month period through Dec. 31 with $276 in cash on hand. He reported $93,000 in contributions; most were in-kind donations.
Salahi said he officially started fundraising at the beginning of 2013.