A federal elections complaint accuses Naples Republican Casey Askar of illegally directing a loan to his campaign. Askar’s campaign said the accusations are bogus.
Stan Carter, of St. James City, said in a complaint to the Federal Election Commission that Askar pulled a $3 million loan with no interest and had it directed to the account for his Congressional campaign. In the complaint, Carter wrote the loan “reeks of fraud to the highest degree.”
That’s partly because the loan from Northern Bank and Trust had a 0% APR, which is not customary.
Financial disclosures show that Askar’s financing was tied to his interest in three limited liability corporations.
Carter points to business filings suggesting other business partners, including Askar’s brother Sam Askar, have interest in those LLCs. Another document tied to one of the companies lists Alexander Askar as a member of the company.
Carter suggests in his complaint that other individuals’ interest in the companies raises questions about whether the loan from Northern Trust was in fact a business loan rather than a personal loan only to Casey Askar.
Carter alleged in his complaint the loan itself seemed to be made based on a Manatee County property owned by one of the corporations appraised at $425,000 by local government. The property was mortgaged with Northern Trust for $650,000 after Askar filed for a line of credit.
But Kristin Davison, a consultant with the Askar campaign said the candidate loan comes from a line of credit the businessman had through Northern Trust for years. Money was drawn from the account before Askar filed for Congress, and then was provided through a candidate loan.
“The bank didn’t loan money to the campaign,” she said. “Casey has a line of credit. Those are his personal funds.”
That credit comes because Askar has done business with the bank for years. It’s based on a number of LLCs in which Askar is the sole owner, Davison said.
If Askar is the sole owner of any LLCs serving as collateral, that’s fine, campaign finance officials said. But if the companies have multiple owners things get more dicey, as money obtained through a line of credit could arguably be seen as donations to a campaign beyond the legal limit.
Once the Askar campaign receives formal notification the complaint in fact was filed, documentation can be provided to verify the source of funding is legitimate, Davison said. The Askar campaign expects the complaint to be dismissed.
While candidates are allowed to put their own money into a campaign account, they cannot do the same with money belonging to other entities and individuals, even family members.
But Carter suggests that was done and that Northern Trust was aware of the problem.
“Of course, banks are conscious of the stringent regulations surrounding campaign finance, and they would be all the more conscious of those regulations when lending a figure as large as $3,000,000,” Carter wrote. “However, Northern Bank & Trust Company blatantly ignored these regulations. Why? Because Kousay ‘Casey’ Askar conspired with the President & CEO of Northern Bank & Trust Company, James Mawn, to receive the fraudulent loan.”
Mawn donated to Askar’s campaign, giving $5,600 to the candidate on March 3. Mawn’s wife Erica donated an identical amount the same day. The donations are the only ones made by either of the Mawns to federal candidates this cycle.
Calls to Northern Bank & Trust have not been returned.
Askar is one of 10 Republicans running in Florida’s 19th Congressional District to succeed retiring Rep. Francis Rooney.
Through the first quarter of the year, Askar boasted the greatest cash advantage. He’s raised the most outside dollars, including more than $500,000 pulled together in the first 11 days of filing. But the $3 million loan represents the bulk of his $3.5 million in total receipts.
Carter, in an email to Florida Politics, also goes after Askar for his heritage, calling him an “Iraqi immigrant” while asserting, without evidence, ties to “radicalized Middle Eastern business entities.”
Davison dismissed the slight. Askar’s family fled Christian persecution in Iraq when he was seven years old, a story he has featured prominently in campaign advertisements.
“It’s a clown thing to do to use [Askar’s] American Dream story against him,” Davison said.
The FEC complaint itself focuses on Askar’s loan, suggesting a bank with no personal ties to Askar would never grant such a low-risk deal to a first-time political candidate and saying the way the money was directed into the campaign account was unlawful.
“It is imperative that Kousay ‘Casey’ Askar, Casey Askar For Congress, and Northern Bank & Trust Company be served justice for their egregious violations,” Carter wrote in the complaint. “The loan should be recalled immediately as the investigation unfolds, so as not to allow Casey Askar For Congress to benefit from the fraud that they committed. In addition, a comprehensive investigation should be launched into all parties.”
That includes Mawn and any regulators who approved the deal, the complaint said.