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Fortenberry Resigns After Conviction on Lying Charge

March 27, 2022 by Dan McCue
Fortenberry Resigns After Conviction on Lying Charge
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry

WASHINGTON — Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., resigned from office Saturday after a California jury convicted him of lying to federal authorities about an illegal campaign donation from a foreign national.

A federal jury deliberated for only two hours Thursday after a week-long trial, convicting Fortenberry of two counts of lying to federal agents and one count of concealing illegal campaign contributions.

The charges stemmed from a 2016 fundraiser for Fortenberry held in Glendale, Calif.; it was there, prosecutors said, that the congressman received $30,200 in donations from Gilbert Chagoury, a wealthy Nigerian business executive who used other people as conduits to make the contributions.

Foreign nationals are prohibited from donating to candidates running for federal office in the United States. It is also illegal to disguise a donor’s identity through third-party contributions.


Each charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. 

Fortenberry’s initial response to his conviction was to announce he would appeal it immediately, leaving open the prospect that he would wage his legal battle while remaining in the House. This seemed even more the case when he subsequently gave up his seat on the Appropriations Committee.

But pressure continued to mount and he was advised that he shouldn’t even vote on the House floor since he’d been convicted of a felony. 

Finally, in a letter delivered to House leaders on Saturday, Fortenberry said he was resigning from Congress, effective March 31.

Fortenberry’s announcement followed concerted pressure from political leaders in Nebraska and Washington for him to step down.

Both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on Friday urged Fortenberry to resign. 


McCarthy, speaking at the House Republican retreat in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., said “I think he had his day in court and I think if he wants to appeal, he could go do that as a private citizen. 

“I think out of respect, you can let me talk to him today. But I think when someone’s convicted, it’s time to resign,” he added.

Pelosi, meanwhile, was blunt in her assessment of the situation.

“Congressman Fortenberry’s conviction represents a breach of the public trust and confidence in his ability to serve. No one is above the law. Congressman Fortenberry must resign from the House,” she said.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, also a Republican, said Fortenberry should “do the right thing for his constituents” and leave the office he has held since 2005.

Fortenberry’s withdrawal from the primary leaves state Sen. Mike Flood as the likely GOP nominee. 

The former speaker of the Nebraska Legislature, who has won endorsements from Ricketts and former Gov. Dave Heineman, has a strong advantage in the GOP-leaning 1st Congressional District. 

State Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks is running for the seat on the Democratic side.

Pansing Brooks said Fortenberry’s conviction is a “wake-up call” that the district needs a change.


Fortenberry is scheduled to be sentenced June 28.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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