COLUMBUS — Former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a candidate for Ohio governor, reported Tuesday earning speaking fees from a group with sympathies toward the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Kucinich, a Democrat, reported receiving $20,000 for a speech last year from the Association for Investment in Popular Action Committees. Business filings list the group as a parent organization of the pro-Assad Syrian Solidarity Movement. The report was part of an amended financial disclosure filing requested by the Ohio Ethics Commission.
The U.S. and its allies last week destroyed sites of Syrian chemical weapons that Assad is accused of using on his own people.
On its website, the Syrian Solidarity Movement praises Assad’s government and criticizes what it characterizes as a “false western narrative about Syria.”
Kucinich’s campaign spokesman, Andy Juniewicz, said Kucinich’s speech was delivered at a peace conference hosted by the association.
Juniewicz said Kucinich supports peace in the Middle East and has personally pressed Assad to admit he has chemical weapons and to pledge to abide by international agreements. He said the speech supported the idea of advancing peace in the region.
Juniewicz said the Ethics Commission wrote Kucinich’s campaign Monday seeking additional information on its required financial disclosure filing.
Paul Nick, the commission’s executive director, said letters requesting further information from mandatory filers don’t necessarily imply wrongdoing. He said some omissions are mere oversights; other times they can rise to legal violations.
Warren City Law Director Gregory Hicks, a supporter of rival candidate Democrat Richard Cordray, also had written to complain about the filing, which he said was inappropriately vague about money Kucinich had earned through his speeches.
Hicks suggested in an interview that the omissions were meant to hide affiliations that might hurt Kucinich’s reputation.
In his letter, Hicks said the former congressman has spoken over the years to the new-age Light Party of Dubrovnik, Croatia, and Burning Man, a summer cultural event that espouses “radical self-expression.” Hicks also said Kucinich appeared twice in 2017 on Russia Today, a Russian government-funded television operation known simply as RT.
Hicks told Nick “there is significant evidence that Russia Today pays guests of their show,” but Kucinich’s campaign said Kucinich was not compensated for appearances it described as interviews.
“The inclusion of the comments about Russia Today is obviously a calculated attempt to smear Mr. Kucinich,” Juniewicz said.
Kucinich’s revised filing included no income from Russia Today or any of the other organizations Hicks alleged had been omitted.
Hicks acknowledged supporting Cordray’s gubernatorial bid. He said neither Cordray nor his campaign asked him to write the letter.