Alek Skarlatos, a hero soldier-turned-Republican congressional candidate, started a nonprofit shortly after his 2020 defeat in western Oregon, pledging to advocate for veterans “left high and dry” by the country “they put their lives on the line for.”
Skarlatos funded the group with $93,000 of campaign funds left over, but it has done very little to advance that cause.
It has supported Skarlatos political ambitions. He provided $65,000 to his 2022 bid to rematch with Peter DeFazio, a long-serving Democratic Rep., in a district that stretches from Corvallis, Oregon, to the Oregon coast. In their quest to regain the House, Republicans are targeting this seat.
Campaign finance laws ban candidates from engaging in self-dealing or accepting illegal money from the often less transparent and regulated world of political non-profits. Legal experts agree that this includes a ban on candidates giving campaign cash to non-profit groups they control and a wider ban on accepting donations from such groups.
However, years of lax enforcement of campaign finance laws have created an environment in which many candidates are open to challenging the established boundaries of legality.
Adav Noti, an ex-lawyer for the Federal Election Commission and now works at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center in Washington, said that “you can’t do it.” “There is serious corruption potential. That is what the law allows.”
Skarlatos campaign declined to interview him, didn’t address the activities and wouldn’t say if he holds any current role within the group. Ross Purgason, the campaign manager, said that the transactions were legal.
Purgason stated that despite attempts to discredit Alek Skarlatos who served in Afghanistan and was never paid a dime.
Skarlotos was a member the Oregon National Guard and gained some fame in 2015 when he stopped an attack by a heavily armed man, who was a follower the Islamic State, on a train heading for Paris. He was hailed as a hero and appeared on “Dancing with the Stars” and visited the White House. He also received dual French citizenship. This led to him playing the lead role in Clint Eastwood’s movie “15:17 To Paris.”
His biography was the cornerstone of his campaign against DeFazio (the chairman of the House transport committee), which he beat by five percentage points in November 2019.
The nonprofit was established by him the month following his loss. It was named 15:17 Trust, in reference to the train attack. According to records, it was registered in Virginia. His campaign treasurer also served as the group’s treasurer.