This post is updated below with Daniel Cowan’s comments.
The image above shows two of the four pages of a mail piece that landed in 11th District Republican voters’ mailboxes over the weekend.
Sent by the campaign of incumbent U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, the slick mailer accuses challenger Daniel Cowan of profiting from business deals in Iran. It’s a complicated story.
Cowan, who now owns a boutique investment bank, once owned a company that specialized in managing the thousands of electronic transactions banks and other companies make every day.
In the early part of the last decade, Cowan’s company entered a joint venture with a bank in Dubai. According to several news articles, the bank was also separately underwriting or helping to fund major, state-sponsored construction projects in Iran. The articles themselves are behind paywalls here and here. But the gist of both: Emirates Bank International, Cowan’s partner, helped arrange deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars in Iran.
The most important word in that previous sentence is “separately” – as in it wasn’t the Cowan-bank joint venture doing business in Iran, just Cowan’s business partner.
Cowan on Tuesday said, “I had no knowledge of any business dealings of my partner outside of our joint venture. My bank partner in the Middle East was also a correspondent bank partner of Bank America, Wells Fargo and Citibank.”
Does that mean, however, that Cowan benefited from the Iranian deal? One could argue the deal probably made his business partner stronger, which in turn benefited the joint venture with Cowan. One could also argue it was completely unrelated to Cowan’s work.
But Cowan might have opened himself up to the attack when he criticized President Barack Obama’s policy toward Iran. In response to a question at a recent Cobb Republican Women’s forum, Cowan said:
“We need to clearly stand with our friends, and let them know that we stand with them, and our cozying up, unfreezing billions of dollars for Iran, all that did was tell our friends they’re not really that good friends, and tell the world that we’re not willing to hold people accountable for actions that I think most conservatives consider deplorable.”
That seems to indicate Cowan considers it bad policy to do business with Iran.
On Tuesday, Cowan said he stands by those comments.
“I stand by my comments that United States entities should not engage in business with the nuclear Iran who has weakened security in not only the region but the world,” he said. “The advancement of their nuclear program and the capitulation of the Obama Administration has put the lives of men and women serving in the military and American citizens at risk. I stand by that opinion and won’t apologize for it.”
But Cowan has hit back at Loudermilk on his Facebook page. In one post, Cowan accuses Loudermilk of using “flawed logic.” He says SunTrust and Wells Fargo, both of which count Loudermilk or his campaign as clients, have business partnerships with Middle Eastern banks that also do business in Iran.
“Congressman Loudermilk wants you to believe that anyone who derives income from SunTrust bank, be it by employment, shareholding, or interest income has assisted Iran and funded Iran’s arm(sic) program,” Cowan wrote on the social media site. “Making a claim that any individual is associated with Iran’s arms or nuclear programs is equivalent to accusing that person of treason.”
The post includes the nifty image on the right.
This is not the first time a candidate has targeted Cowan’s work overseas. William Llop, a Sandy Springs accountant also running in Tuesday’s primary, accused Cowan of using offshore accounts as tax havens and sought “lucrative deals” from “foreign governments.
Cowan’s camp privately points to Loudermilk’s mailer as a sign that the freshman incumbent is scared of Cowan and worries he’s trailing ahead of next week’s vote. But Loudermilk’s team says it is simply showing 11th District voters who Cowan is.
“It took Cowan a week to come up with the Sgt. Schultz ‘I know nothing’ defense?” sharp-tongued Loudermilk spokesman Dan McLagan said. “The convicted felon running against Barry is more credible and he went to prison as a con man.”
Translation for the uninitiated: The bit about Sgt. Schultz comes from the old television series “Hogan’s Heroes.” A sample is below. The part about a felon is a reference to Billy Davis, one of the four challengers running against Loudermilk. Davis once spent a year in federal prison, stemming from a conviction for lying about his net worth on a loan application. He had his rights restored in 2000.