Irvine Mayor-elect Farrah Khan is under investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commision (FPPC) for allegedly receiving funds from a foreign country. As of Nov. 15, no validity has been found in the accusations.
Allegations against Khan were made two weeks before the election by Mark Newgent, a city council candidate who serves on incumbent Irvine Mayor Christina Shea’s advisory committee. Newgent filed a complaint against Khan to the FPPC regarding a trip she had taken in 2019 to attend the “Fifth World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue” in the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Newgent’s complaint states that Khan received money from the Azerbaijan government to fund her trip to the conference.
“I became alarmed for several reasons. City Council Member Khan’s conduct appears to be a clear violation of the Political Reform Act’s Gift provisions. More importantly, as a retired army captain and decorated Anti-Terrorism Officer, I can tell you from experience that taking money from hostile foreign governments, such as Azerbaijan, is often an indicator of subversive activity,” Newgent said in his complaint.
Khan said that she attended the conference as a private citizen, not as a representative of Irvine or the U.S. In an interview with the Epoch Times, Khan said that her trip to Azerbaijan “was an extraordinary opportunity to be part of a conference highlighting the importance of intercultural and interfaith dialogue and creating a more just world.”
The trip was disclosed to then City Manager John Russo, and Khan had applied for publicly available travel grants to pay for part of it.
Khan personally disclosed these funds in her campaign finances, showing an amount of $1,600 given to her by the Azerbaijan government.
“This was not official city business and no taxpayer dollars were spent. I attended as a private citizen, not in an official capacity. To help with expenses, I applied for and received a grant for travel costs which I publicly reported. That’s it. No corruption,” Khan said in an official statement.
Upon her return home, Khan discussed her trip at a city council meeting in May 2019.
According to Shea, Councilmembers Melissa Fox and Khan were both invited by the Azerbaijan government to attend the conference as elected officials. Fox did not attend the conference.
“This is very odd, because [Khan] was invited as an elected official from Irvine. She had only been holding office for three months, and she went to this foreign country. What she spoke about, I have no idea. She was not authorized to go … and she did not get any city approval. The bottom line is, what she took was inappropriate,” Shea said in an interview with the Epoch Times.
According to the FPPC, “[c]ommittees may not solicit or accept contributions from foreign nationals. Federal law prohibits contributions and expenditures solicited, directed, received or made directly or indirectly by or from foreign nationals in connection with any election.”
Additional FPPC regulations and restrictions on foreign donations can be found here.
Amy Duong is a City News Intern for the 2020 fall quarter. She can be reached at email@example.com.