Billionaire fined $975,000 for illegally steering money into Trump super PAC
President Donald Trump (Screen cap).

On Friday, The New York Times reported that a Canadian steel industry billionaire has been fined $975,000 from the Federal Election Commission for illegally steering money into a pro-Trump super PAC — one of the largest fines ever levied by the agency.

"The $975,000 fine will be paid by entities controlled by Barry Zekelman, a steel industry executive from Ontario who had lobbied the Trump administration to use its power to tighten import restrictions on Mr. Zekelman’s competitors from around the world," reported Eric Lipton. "The action came as the election commission continues a multiyear crackdown on foreign influence in American politics."

According to the report, Zekelman received access to the administration as he was making these donations to the ostensibly independent pro-Trump committee.

"Mr. Zekelman’s donations in 2018 to the America First Action super PAC helped him secure an invitation to a private dinner with President Donald J. Trump at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, where Mr. Zekelman personally pushed Mr. Trump about the steel tariffs and other matters," said the report. "The $1.75 million in donations came from a Pennsylvania-based subsidiary of Mr. Zekelman’s company named Wheatland Tube. But The New York Times first reported in 2019 that Mr. Zekelman played a role in directing one of his executives who is a U.S. citizen to send in the contributions — some of the largest made by any donor to the super PAC — even though federal law prohibits foreigners from participating in decision making related to campaign donations, as well as from directly writing campaign checks."

Previous reports indicated that firms tied to Zekelman were rewarded lucratively by the Trump administration — with one of his Chicago subsidiaries providing the giant steel bollards used to construct the former president's border wall project in Arizona.

This is not the first Trump super PAC to land in trouble over foreign money. Last year, Great America PAC, another Trump group, paid a $25,000 fine after its strategist attempted to take in what he thought was $2 million from a Chinese national, which would have been illegal. In fact, it was a sting set up by journalists from The Telegraph.

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