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Trump Campaign Hit with Complaint to FEC that Fundraising Was Not Properly Reported

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Trump Campaign Hit with Complaint to FEC that Fundraising Was Not Properly Reported

2020-07-29 21:07:56

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Donald Trump (Image source: Screenshot)

For the second campaign in a row, the Trump campaign is facing campaign finance violations. In 2016 it was because he provided hush-money payments to two women to keep quiet about their alleged affairs with him. His former attorney, Michael Cohen, was sent to prison for this and other crimes.

In 2016 the campaign was facing a legal complaint that was filed with the Federal Election Commission. The complaint alleges that the campaign and an affiliated fundraising committee have not reported nearly $170 million in campaign spending that was paid to subcontractors.

Two firms were set up and run by Brad Parscale, Trump's former campaign manager. The Campaign Legal Center alleges that the firms made payments that should have been reported because the recipients can be seen as working for the campaign.

Campaign committees must publicly disclose the names of anyone they are paying, according to campaign finance law. They aren't required to disclose payments to others as long as they aren't acting as a go-between to avoid having to disclose it.

The two defendants named are the Trump campaign and the Trump Make America Great Again Committee. They both work to raise and spend money to get Donald Trump elected. Also named are American Made Media Consultants and Parscale Strategy. Both of these firms were formed by Parscale and are among the highest-paid vendors for Trump's campaign.

"The firms serve as conduits that receive millions in payments from the campaign and disburse the funds to the campaign's ultimate vendors, thereby concealing the campaign's transactions with those vendors," according to the complaint.

The campaign has said AMMC was set up to place all the ads for Trump's reelection effort. The structure allows for the ads to be placed without having to pay fees or commission to vendors that aren't connected.

Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said that's not true: "AMMC is a campaign vendor responsible for arranging and executing media buys and related services at fair market value. AMMC does not earn any commissions or fees."

He added that by designating AMMC at the firm for buying media, it "builds efficiencies and saves the campaign money by providing these in-house services that otherwise would be done by outside vendors. The campaign reports all payments to AMMC as required by the FEC. The campaign complies with all campaign finance laws and FEC regulations."

The Republican National Committee runs Trump Make American Great Again along with the Trump campaign. Mandi Merritt, the RNC's spokeswoman, contended in a statement that "the RNC and its joint fundraising committees comply with all FEC regulations and campaign finance laws."

The lawsuit alleges that AMMC acted as a conduit because the sub-vendors are "effectively working under the direction and control of the Trump campaign. Media reports and interviews with Parscale are cited in the argument that the companies are being directed by Parscale and campaign officials and not AMMC.

There are also instances cited that other subcontractors, instead of AMMC, bought ads that were not publicly disclosed in federal filings as media vendors for Trump's reelection effort.

Trump's daughter-in-law Lara Trump and Donald Trump Jr.'s girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle are both paid through Parscale Strategy. They are both advisers to the campaign. Their closeness to Trump brings up questions in the lawsuit of whether they are taking direction from Parscale Strategy instead of Trump's committee.

Parscale was demoted from campaign manager earlier this month with Trump sinking in the polls. Now a senior adviser focusing on digital and data strategies, he was replaced by political aide Bill Stepien. 

The FEC is asked in the complaint to investigate and pursue sanctions, including civil penalties.

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