More than a year before Anna Paulina Luna became the Republican nominee in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, she led a panel discussion on border security at an event hosted by We Build The Wall, the nonprofit whose leaders were indicted last week on charges that they defrauded donors.
The nonprofit, which raised more than $25 million to fund a privately-built section of border wall, hosted the three-day event last July in Sunland Park, N.M. It was called Symposium at the Wall: Cartels, Trafficking and Asylum.
Last week, We Build The Wall’s leaders, including President Donald Trump’s former adviser Stephen Bannon, an Air Force veteran and a Florida venture capitalist, were indicted by federal prosecutors, accused of siphoning off donation money for their own personal gain. Bannon, accused of stealing nearly $1 million to cover personal expenses, is charged with wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy. He faces up to 20 years in prison for each charge and was released last week on $5 million bail.
Sunland Park, just west of El Paso, Texas, was where the organization had just completed a stretch of privately-funded border wall.
Luna attended the event for work as vice president of Bienvenido, which pushes conservatism within the Hispanic community and was invited by event organizers. Her panel, which featured Hispanic border security and Trump activists and touched on topics of human trafficking, social media, and spirituality, ran for about 30 minutes.
Two months later, Luna announced her bid for Congress. She secured the Republican nomination in last week’s primary election and is taking on incumbent Democrat U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist in the November general election.
When asked Tuesday, Luna declined to defend We Build The Wall.
“We only know what we’ve read about the indictments,” Luna said in a statement. “I of course vehemently reject anyone taking advantage of or scamming any group of people for any reason. If these allegations are in fact true, they should be held fully accountable under the law.”
Crist campaign spokesman Kevin Cate characterized We Build The Wall as an “extremist” group “duping real people out of money and time.”
“That’s the opposite of what voters of Pinellas County voters expect and deserve from their leaders,” he said.