A nonpartisan watchdog group filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission in July charging that the Trump campaign has essentially laundered $170 million through private companies in order to hide the ultimate recipients of the money.
HuffPost reported that the Campaign Legal Center claims some of those recipients were members of President Trump’s family.
“The money is being laundered through corporations run by top Trump campaign officials,” said Brendan Fischer, a lawyer with the Campaign Legal Center. “That has the effect of keeping the public in the dark as to a big chunk of Trump campaign spending.”
The Hill reported that Fischer also said, “This illegal conduit scheme leaves voters in the dark about the entities working for the Trump campaign, the nature of their services, and the full amount they are paid. We don’t know all of what is being hidden by this scheme, but we do know that it violates the law.”
The complaint asks the FEC to investigate in order to end the practice and penalize the campaign with fines; however HuffPost noted that such investigations can take years, and “the commission currently does not have a quorum to take official actions.”
The Campaign Legal Center alleges that “both Trump’s reelection campaign and a related fundraising group, the ‘Trump Make America Great Again Committee,’ are breaking federal campaign law by running payments through former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale’s private firms as well as American Made Media Consultants, a company created specifically to place ads and buy related services for the campaign.”
According to The Hill, the complaint reads:
“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.
“By failing to report payments to the campaign’s true vendors and employees, the Trump campaign and Trump Make America Great Again Committee have violated, and continue to violate federal law’s transparency requirements and undermine the vital public information role that reporting is intended to serve.”
Per a HuffPost analysis, “Parscale’s companies have already received $39 million from Trump’s campaign, the RNC and their joint fundraising committees,” and “American Made Media Consultants has been paid $177.6 million from those same committees through that time period.”
Among those payments: $180,000 a year each to Kimberly Guilfoyle, the girlfriend of Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and to Lara Trump, the wife of his second son, Eric Trump.
In April, Parscale acknowledged making the payments through his firm, telling HuffPost: “I can pay them however I want to pay them.”
Trump campaign communications director, Tim Murtaugh, has denied that the payments violated any laws:
“AMMC is a campaign vendor responsible for arranging and executing media buys and related services at fair market value,” Murtaugh said. “AMMC does not earn any commissions or fees. 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.”
Fischer told HuffPost that other campaigns have used similar entities in the past — “the presidential campaign of Republican Mitt Romney in 2012 created a firm, American Rambler, to buy all of its television advertising” — but said, “The Trump campaign has taken it to another level.”
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