The Democratic National Committee is throwing a Thursday fundraiser at the Miami home of the founder of Lumber Liquidators, which earlier this year was ordered to pay millions for lying to investors about selling formaldehyde-laden flooring imported from China.
The fundraiser at the home of Thomas Sullivan, a longtime Democratic donor who founded Lumber Liquidators, will take place in between the DNC's two presidential primary debates this week in Miami. It also takes place just four months after Sullivan's former company agreed to pay a $33 million penalty to the Department of Justice for lying to investigators in the aftermath of an undercover 60 Minutes investigation into the "astonishingly high levels" of cancer-causing formaldehyde in its Chinese-made flooring.
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Sullivan led Lumber Liquidators from 1994, when he founded the company, through 2017, when he resigned from the board of directors. He was featured in the 60 Minutes exposé, telling host Anderson Cooper that the many tests indicating formaldehyde in its Chinese-made products far above the legal limit were wrong.
The show's investigators tested laminate flooring from stores across the country and found nearly all of it to be loaded with formaldehyde. They also traveled to China, where factories openly admitted using boards with high formaldehyde levels and falsely labeling them as compliant.
Sullivan was played footage from China by Cooper showing his suppliers admitting they were lying—Sullivan insisted he was completely unaware of the practice.
A 2016 Consumer Product Safety Commission investigation found that the company's laminate flooring "gave off enough formaldehyde to irritate the eyes, nose and throat of many people" and "increased cancer risks."
Lumber Liquidators agreed under Sullivan to pay out $36 million in a class-action lawsuit from the 760,000 customers who had bought the Chinese-made flooring.
The Department of Justice settlement says the company, under Sullivan's leadership, lied about actions it took to make sure its product was safe. It "knowingly filed a false and misleading" report to the Securities and Exchange Commission denying allegations made on 60 Minutes, even though its own internal test results confirmed many of them.
The Department of Justice was also assured Lumber Liquidators "placed its executive management team with experienced executives who have displayed a commitment to building an ethical corporate culture."
The full 60 Minutes investigation can be viewed on the show's YouTube page.
Sullivan now runs competing company Cabinets To Go, which is being sued by Lumber Liquidators for violating an existing non-compete agreement.
The cash-strapped DNC said it’s hoping to raise "multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars" at the Sullivan-hosted fundraiser.
In 2013, Sullivan hosted a private $32,400-a-plate dinner with former president Barack Obama for the DNC. He has personally donated at least $94,000 to the national party in recent years.
The DNC did not respond to a request for comment on its relationship with Sullivan.