State Campaign Finance Regulators Announce Investigation Into Irvine Mayoral Candidate For Overseas Trip Paid For By Foreign Government

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Farrah Khan attends a neighborhood park ribbon cutting at the Great Park on Nov. 16, 2019.

State campaign finance regulators have announced an investigation into Irvine City Councilwoman Farrah Khan with just days to go until the November 3 deadline for voters. 

In a complaint to the Fair Political Practices Commission, city council candidate Mark Newgent points to a trip Khan took last year to the Republic of Azerbaijan to attend the Fifth World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, saying it violated laws governing how elected officials can accept gifts. 

Khan slammed the complaint as “slimy politics” saying her conference trip was taken as a private citizen and disclosed properly.

According to Khan’s own campaign finance disclosures, she was given more than $1,600 for attending the conference by the Azerbaijan government to cover travel expenses for that trip. 

Last week, the FPPC replied to Newgent saying they had chosen to investigate the case, yet making it clear in their notice that they had not determined the validity of the claim yet. 

Yet the rules regarding foreign donations on the FPPC’s website are clearly stated in a manual updated in June 2020.

“Committees may not solicit or accept contributions from foreign nationals,” the report reads. “Federal law prohibits contributions and expenditures solicited, directed, received or made directly or indirectly by or from foreign nationals in connection with any election.” 

FPPC Communications Director Jay Wierenga confirmed an investigation was underway, but declined to comment any further.

Newgent criticized Khan for acceptance of foreign government funds after she was elected to the city council in 2018.  

“Council Member Khan’s apparent misconduct, poor judgement and inability to recognize the international consequences of her actions as a duly elected United States government official is worthy of an FPPC investigation by itself,” Newgent said. 

Newgent is running for a seat on the Irvine City Council, and currently serves on incumbent Mayor Christina Shea’s advisory committee. 

Khan released a statement last week on the allegations, calling the allegations, “slimy politics and nothing more.” 

In her statement, Khan says that she notified then city manager John Russo she would be travelling to the conference, and applied for a grant to help cover her travel expenses. 

“This was not official city business and no taxpayer dollars were spent. I attended as a private citizen, not in an official capacity,” Khan said. “As for challenging my loyalty to this country, that’s just a racist dog-whistle. I’m a proud American and a proud resident of Irvine.” 

Khan said the conference represented an “extraordinary opportunity,” and that no taxpayers money was used on the trip. 

I attended as a private citizen, not in an official capacity,” Khan said. “To help with expenses, I applied for and received a grant for travel costs which I publicly reported. That’s it. No corruption.” 

Khan did not return requests for comment from Voice of OC on Friday afternoon.

Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @NBiesiada.