Ossoff Refuses to Release 'Further Financial Information' After Controversial Payments Surface

Georgia Dem cashed checks from China

Senate candidate Jon Ossoff (D., Ga.) / Getty Images
December 23, 2020

Even after a number of controversial payments to Jon Ossoff's foreign film company surfaced in September—including one from a Chinese-backed media giant—the Georgia Democrat refused to release additional financial documents from the company.

In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Ossoff declined the outlet's request to "release further financial information" relating to his company, noting that "the particulars of our annual finances are confidential." The refusal comes months after Ossoff quietly disclosed receiving at least $5,000 from PCCW, a Hong Kong-based media corporation owned in part by the Chinese Communist Party.

Ossoff's withholding of financial information could undermine his ability to fend off attacks from his Republican opponent. Senator David Perdue has criticized Ossoff for accepting funds from a "communist Chinese news agency" and called on him to explain "where his money comes from" in an October debate.

Ossoff failed to include the PCCW payment in his May candidate financial disclosure before revealing it nearly two months later in an amended filing. While his campaign initially blamed the discrepancy on a "paperwork oversight," spokeswoman Miryam Lipper later told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the payment was "around $1,000." Senate ethics rules, however, only require candidates to disclose payments exceeding $5,000. Lipper responded by telling the Journal-Constitution that—despite falling below the reporting threshold—the payment was disclosed "in the interest of transparency."

The Ossoff campaign declined a Washington Free Beacon request to review documents surrounding the payment, instead pointing to the Journal-Constitution's review of the company's 2018 quarterly payments. The outlet, which did not respond to a request for comment, found that Ossoff's company received "about $950" from PCCW in 2018, though it did not review subsequent years. The campaign claims that the 2018 records "document the only transactions" between Ossoff's company and PCCW.

In addition to the payment he received from PCCW, Ossoff also received at least $5,000 from the Qatari-backed Al Jazeera network, his financial disclosures show. The network sparked controversy when it aired flattering footage of Osama bin Laden in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. Its English-language counterpart has since faced criticism for "regularly skew[ing] coverage to promote Qatar." Ossoff defended the payment in his Washington Post interview, calling Al Jazeera English a "completely respected news organization" with which he negotiated "directly."

Ossoff used a sizable family inheritance to purchase London-based film company Insight TWI in 2013. He told the Washington Post that he first loaned the company $250,000 before investing "an unspecified additional amount" that made him CEO and majority owner. Ossoff also declined to reveal the total amount he inherited. Perdue has labeled the Georgia Democrat a "trust fund socialist."

Ossoff and Perdue will square off in Georgia's January 5 Senate runoff election.