When Dennis Kucinich amended his financial disclosure to show that he was paid by a pro-Syrian government group, it set off a firestorm in the Democratic primary for Ohio governor.
Former Gov. Ted Strickland, who supports Kucinich’s main rival Richard Cordray, accused Kucinich of trying to hide the $20,000 payment.
"The fact that Dennis intentionally omitted his ties to these despicable individuals speaks volumes, I think, and it shows he knew these relationships were problematic," Strickland said during a conference call with reporters arranged by the Cordray campaign.
In 2017, Kucinich was paid by the Association for Investment in Popular Action Committees to give a speech in England at an event hosted by the European Centre for the Study of Extremism. The California-based association is the parent of the Syria Solidarity Movement, which says it takes no sides about Bashar Hafez al-Assad but appears sympathetic to the Syrian president.
Kucinich disputed Strickland’s characterization that he hid anything in an interview with Cleveland radio talk show host Mike Trivisonno.
"There was no hiding," Kucinich said April 10. "I released it," adding, "I released the information. There’s no hiding here. I’ve never hid anything in my life."
Time for PolitiFact to weigh in. Did Kucinich hide who paid him for a $20,000 speech about Syria?
Kucinich’s speech has become a hot topic in the crowded Democratic May 8 primary for governor.
On his April 9 financial disclosure form, Kucinich listed "paid speeches." Ohio Ethics Commission Executive Director Paul Nick sent Kucinich an April 13 letter asking him to identify the source of the paid speeches.
Most filers must list every source of income and briefly describe the services they provided, according to the instructions.
Kucinich provided additional information to the commission showing that he was paid $20,000 by the Association for Investment in Popular Action Committees. He also wrote that he received $10,000 from Nexus Earth and $3,000 from author Marianne Williamson.
Kucinich said he went beyond the disclosure requirements.
"I instantly not only said who I spoke to but I also said what the amount was, which I wasn’t required to do," he said in the radio interview.
The amount of income is only required in some cases, such as if they were providing services to a lobbyist.
Kucinich said that he should have included who paid him on his first filing.
"I made a mistake," he said. "It was an omission. It was an error, but it wasn’t deliberate."
Kucinich has said that the conference was about peace. He posted an abstract of his 2017 speech, in which he said the West can’t impose its will on Syria.
"The Syrian people, who are not unanimous on the question of President Assad, are resolute in protecting their way of life, which includes free education and free health care, while supporting the Assad government from a military overthrow which would destroy Syria."
Paul Larudee, a steering committee member of the Syria Solidarity Movement, told PolitiFact that it doesn’t support Assad or any candidate.
"We have no position on whether Assad should remain in power, and neither should the U.S. or your organization or anyone who is not Syrian," he said. "This is for Syrians to decide without interference or outside pressure."
The Syria Solidarity Movement tries to cast doubt that Assad used a chemical attack and suggests the majority of Syrians support the Assad government. It includes articles with headlines such as "Voices from Syria: Assad is Essential for Syria’s Unity & Security." It calls for the West to not intervene and accuses human rights groups such as Doctors without Borders and Amnesty International of false allegations about the government in Syria.
Robert S. Ford, former ambassador to Syria during the Obama administration and a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, told PolitiFact he is certain that the Syrian government used chemical weapons.
Ford said the Syria Solidarity Movement appears to be"vehemently pro-Assad government, denying regime war crimes."
"They are trying to discredit the harder-line opposition (secular and Islamist both) while recommending that the world accept the Russian-mobilized Succhi dialogue process," he said. "That process aims to keep Assad now in return for promise of reforms at some later date."
Kucinich has faced criticism in the past for meeting with Assad in 2017.
His spokesman said that he held "fact-finding missions to find a way to end the violence." While in Congress, he opposed entering into war in Iraq and other military incursions.
In April, Trump ordered a missile attack on Syria following reports that Assad’s regime used chemical attacks.
Kucinich criticized that attack, stating that it "puts the U.S. on a path of military escalation with Russia, which opens wide the possibility of further miscalculations, errors or accidents that can ignite a world war."
Regarding his $20,000 speech about Syria, Kucinich said, "there was no hiding. I released it."
But Kucinich initially listed "paid speeches" on his campaign financial disclosure form with no further detail.
When the Ohio Ethics Commission asked him to identify the source of payments, Kucinich provided the commission with a list of the entities that paid him to give speeches, including $20,000 from the Association for Investment in Popular Action Committees.
So Kucinich initially omitted the information, but disclosed it when asked to do so by a state commission. He also admitted that he made an error by not initially disclosing the source of who paid him for the speech.
We rate this claim Half True.