Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) gives the thumbs-up as he participates in the annual Applejack parade in Nebraska City in September 2020.
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) gives the thumbs-up as he participates in the annual Applejack parade in Nebraska City in September 2020.ASSOCIATED PRESS
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s (R-Neb.) campaign made four payments totaling $80,000 to Bienert Katzman Littrell Williams for legal services in the third quarter of 2021, according to a report filed with the Federal Election Commission on Friday.
Based in Southern California, that firm describes itself as “a leader in complex federal white-collar criminal investigations and litigation.”
In a two-minute video uploaded yesterday, Fortenberry, sitting in his 1963 Ford F-100 pickup with his wife and dog, revealed he expected to be indicted for lying to the FBI and maintained his innocence.
“About five-and-a-half years ago, a person from overseas illegally moved money to my campaign,” Fortenberry said. “I didn’t know anything about this.”
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Fortenberry said that a couple of years later, FBI agents contacted him twice about the case.
“They’ve accused me of lying to them and are charging me with this,” Fortenberry said. “We’re shocked. We’re stunned. I feel so personally betrayed. We thought we were trying to help. And so now we will have to fight.”
In an email sent to supporters, Fortenberry shared more details about the investigation, advised people not to speak with FBI agents and blamed his prosecution on the Biden administration and upcoming midterm elections.
The FEC allows candidates to use campaign funds to cover legal fees related to their position. An advisory opinion issued in 1998 stated that, while the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 bars candidates from using campaign funds for personal use, “any legal expense that relates directly to allegations arising from campaign or officeholder activity would qualify for 100% payment with campaign funds.”
The Fortenberry campaign’s legal fees made up 56 percent of its disbursements during the three-month period the report covers. He already established a legal expense trust to support his defense.
Fortenberry’s video was first reported by Axios.