Democratic congressional candidate Evelyn Farkas sent out a fundraising letter on Thursday slamming a Washington Free Beacon report on her ties to a lobbying effort by the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, and arguing that she is the best candidate to stand up against foreign political influence.
Farkas, a former Obama administration official, participated in Burisma's extensive public relations campaign in Washington, going on a trip to Kharkiv, Ukraine, bankrolled by the gas company while working at a think tank that received funding from Burisma, the Free Beacon reported on Monday.
Farkas, whose campaign had declined to comment on her involvement with Burisma prior to publication, blasted the Free Beacon report as "a false article" and claimed it tied her to "a fake scandal."
The fundraising email included an image of the Free Beacon website with the article's headline covered by a large box labeled "FALSE," obscuring any mention of Farkas's association with Burisma.
"The GOP knows that Evelyn has the experience, knowledge, and courage of her convictions to take on Trump and protect our country from any foreign interference," the campaign said. "Radical national Republicans are running scared and doing everything they can to stop her from becoming a member of Congress."
The campaign asked supporters to "rush a donation" to Farkas, who is currently running against over a dozen other Democrats in New York's 17th Congressional District primary. She has billed herself as the candidate who can best prevent "foreign interference" by the Russian government in U.S. elections, according to her website.
"We can't let them get away this [sic]. Will you chip in $5, $15, or anything you can to help us fight back against these right-wing smears?" said the email.
Burisma's founder, Ukrainian oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky, is believed to have fled Ukraine amid suspicions that he embezzled millions of dollars from the government treasury. Burisma has emerged as a major issue in the U.S. presidential election due to a lucrative board position Hunter Biden received at the company while his father, presidential frontrunner Joe Biden, was overseeing U.S. policy on Ukraine, as well as the Trump administration's attempts to press the Ukrainian government to investigate Burisma. The controversy led to President Trump's impeachment and subsequent acquittal.
Farkas has regularly weighed in on Burisma-related political coverage. During an interview with WBUR in October, Farkas said the fact that the Ukrainian government dropped a prior investigation into Burisma's owner Zlochevsky "leaves the impression that there's nothing to see there. Who knows."
"Hunter Biden sitting on the board of that company, that doesn't necessarily implicate him in any wrongdoing," she added.
Farkas criticized the Free Beacon on Twitter this week and said that her trip to Kharkiv was paid for by the Atlantic Council, the think tank that organized the trip.
"Brit,pls [sic] don't fall for this," she wrote to Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume after he tweeted a link to the article. "I was invited by [Atlantic Council] to speak at a conference on Econ dev in Kharkiv. I was not paid by anyone and assured AC paid my airfare. Going to Ukraine is what you do if you are a Ukraine expert and visiting their companies is normal."
The Atlantic Council told the Free Beacon that its travel costs were reimbursed by Burisma. Farkas was an unpaid fellow specializing in Ukraine and Russia policy at the think tank, which has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the gas company. That partnership ended in 2019.
During the trip, Farkas spoke at a Burisma-sponsored conference and toured the company's gas facilities while wearing a jacket and hat featuring the company logo. Farkas said on Twitter that the "gear was protective."