Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan and Sen.-elect Bill Hagerty (R-TN) is speaking out against Georgia Democrat Senate candidate Jon Ossoff over money Ossoff’s film company received from a company directly tied to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Hagerty, who was ambassador to Japan for two years and made his experience with East Asia a centerpiece of his successful Senate campaign, said in a statement to Breitbart News that Ossoff “may be a security risk” and is “certainly not an acceptable choice for Senator.”
Ossoff, who first invested in the film company, Insight TWI, in 2013, submitted an amendment to his Senate financial statement in July indicating the company received more than $5,000 in the past two years from Hong Kong-based telecommunication company PCCW.
PCCW is owned in part by China Unicom, the CEO of which is a CCP member, and is chaired by Richard Li, who openly opposes Hong Kong independence.
While the payment alone has raised concern because of its link to the CCP, the issue has been further complicated by Ossoff’s reporting of it. This month, Ossoff’s campaign told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he actually received only $1,000 from PCCW despite filing instructions asking for payments over $5,000.
Additionally, the payment, which was one of 11 payments that Ossoff had excluded from his May filing but included in his July amendment, was reported after he had already won his June Senate primary race in his bid to unseat Sen. David Perdue (R-GA). When confronted about the omission, his campaign attributed it to a “paperwork oversight.”
In Hagerty’s statement to Breitbart News, the senator-elect disapproved of the transaction and the handling of it and likened the issue to the recent report of Rep. Eric Swalwell’s (D-CA) relationship with suspected Chinese spy Christine Fang.
“China has proven that it will brazenly leverage any relationship they can to gain influence in our country — and Jon Ossoff is a perfect target for them,” Hagerty said. “Eric Swalwell’s relationship with a suspected Communist spy shows just how vulnerable some congressional Democrats are to Chinese influence.”
Swalwell was among multiple Democrat politicians with whom Fang reportedly developed extensive ties while in the United States. Axios, which first reported on the discovery, explained that while officials do not believe Fang received classified information, she would have had access to other personal details, such as schedules, social networks, and habits, and that “collecting such information is a key part of what foreign intelligence agencies do.”
In addition to the emergence of the Swalwell news, a recent Axios report about a CCP think tank staffer offering money in exchange for source information demonstrates another alleged attempt, seemingly by a Chinese-government affiliate, to tap into sensitive information about U.S. policy on China. Axios described that attempt as “surprisingly clumsy” and said it suggests “that amid a chill in U.S.-China relations and a global pandemic, it’s gotten harder for people in Beijing to know what’s happening in Washington.”
As for Ossoff and his transaction with the CCP-linked company, Ossoff’s campaign has argued that the payment is innocent. According to the campaign, PCCW purchased rights to air a film by Insight TWI — which produces investigative video — about Islamic State war crimes. An Ossoff spokeswoman called criticism of the payment “one of the most laughable smear campaigns in Georgia history,” according to the AJC.
Ossoff’s defenders also point out that paperwork oversights are not uncommon, although as Richard Painter, former chief White House ethics lawyer under George W. Bush, told National Review, it is uncommon to document a receipt that is lower than the amount required.
The Georgia GOP submitted an official complaint about the fact that Ossoff’s payment from PCCW was initially omitted from his Senate filings, contending that “Georgia voters were not given an accurate assessment of his financial situation” ahead of his primary race.
Perdue’s campaign took issue with the new detail that the payment from PCCW was $1,000. Campaign spokesman John Burke said Ossoff’s “shifting explanations for his relationship to the Chinese communist government raise even more questions for the scandal-plagued candidate” and demanded Ossoff present evidence of the $1,000 transaction.
Perdue has himself called Ossoff “a liability” in part because of the payment issue.
Hagerty said of his own concern with the Georgia Democrat, “Ossoff has already worked for a Chinese communist government-backed company as a private citizen and taken payments from them. Payments that he hid from the public.”
Hagerty asked, “What’s to stop China from using him if he’s elected?”
Write to Ashley Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org.