Campaign watchdog alleges contribution concealment in $500K donation to Francis Suarez’s campaign

by | Jul 25, 2023



  • The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) concerning a $500,000 contribution to the super PAC SOS America, supporting Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s presidential bid.
  • The complaint alleges that PassionForest, an artificial flower online retailer, was used as a shell company to conceal the true source of the contribution, acting as a “straw donor” on behalf of unknown individuals.
  • The complaint alleges that PassionForest may have been used to hide illegal contributions from foreign nationals, which is prohibited in political campaigns.

The Campaign Legal Center (CLC), a federal watchdog, filed a complaint on Tuesday with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) centered around a $500,000 contribution to SOS America, a super PAC supporting Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s presidential bid.

The complaint alleges that PassionForest, a small artificial flower online retailer, was not the true source of the contribution made in its name and existed as a shell company for the purpose of financial concealment.

“As set forth in this complaint, there is reason to believe PassionForest was not the true source of the $500,000 contributed in its name, but was instead used as a “straw donor” by unknown persons to funnel a half-a-million-dollar contribution to SOS America while concealing their identities as the true contributors,” reads the complaint.

The filed complaint also alleges that the company may have been used to conceal illegal contributions from foreign nationals, who are prohibited from making political contributions. The documents further contend that based on public disclosures, PassionForest lacked the financial capacity to make a $500,000 contribution without external funding.

“While PassionForest was registered in Delaware and disclosed a Florida address in connection with its reported contribution to SOS America, other information indicates that the LLC’s principal place of business is in China, and that it may be owned and operated by one or more persons living in China, suggesting that PassionForest may have been used to conceal illegal foreign national contributions,” the filing states.

CLC additionally provides that a trademark application for the word “Passionforest” in connection with the sale of, among other things, “Artificial flower arrangements; Artificial flower wreaths; Artificial flowers” was filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on November 26, 2021, four days before the LLC was registered in Delaware — and lists the applicant as Rao Juhui alongside a Chinese address.

According to the USPTO’s website, the trademark application was abandoned on November 4, 2022 — one week after the LLC’s purported contribution to SOS America.

Attempts to contact Suarez’s campaign regarding the matter went unanswered.

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