WASHINGTON (CN) — A watchdog group accused President Trump’s re-election campaign on Tuesday of laundering nearly $170 million in campaign funds.
As detailed in an 81-page complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission, the money went to business associates and Trump family members through two entities set up and controlled by former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale: a clearinghouse firm called American Made Media Holding Corporation and Parscale Strategy.
FEC rules require all campaign transactions over $200 to be memorialized in spending reports containing the date, amount, and reason for the expenditure.
“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,” the filing by Campaign Legal Counsel states.
In a statement responding to the lawsuit, Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said the campaign tells the FEC about all payments it makes to American Made Media Holding Corp., the clearinghouse created by Parscale. “The campaign complies with all campaign finance laws and FEC regulations,” Murtaugh added.
Trump’s re-election campaign is named as a defendant along with its joint fundraising committee with the Republican National Committee, the Trump Make America Great Again Committee.
CLC President and former Republican Chair of the FEC Trevor Potter said in a statement Thursday that this scheme flies in the face of federal transparency mandates.
“Voters have a right know how campaigns are spending money to influence elections,” Poetter said. “This secrecy could also disguise other campaign finance violations, but we don’t know, because the campaign isn’t disclosing these routed payments.”
The filing quotes an April 2020 Huffington Post report that said: “President Donald Trump’s campaign is secretly paying one Trump son’s wife and another one’s girlfriend $180,000 a year each through the campaign manager’s private company, according to top Republicans with knowledge of the payments.”
The women in question are Kimberly Guilfoyle, the girlfriend of eldest son Donald Trump Jr., and Lara Trump, wife of middle son Eric Trump. Two anonymous GOP sources told the Huffington Post that each was receiving $15,000 a month and that Parscale paid the women through his company to avoid public reporting requirements.
“Available evidence casts doubt on whether the ‘top Trump campaign aides’ paid through Parscale Strategy, such as Lara Trump or Kimberly Guilfoyle … report to or take direction from Parscale Strategy. Instead, as in the Bachmann matter, it appears more likely that these senior Trump campaign aides and surrogates ‘report to and t[ake] direction from the Committee,’ rather than from Parscale Strategy, and that therefore itemization of payments to those individuals is required,” the filing states, noting that the campaign has not listed salary payments for either in 2020.
Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform for the Campaign Legal Counsel, noted in a statement Tuesday that it is unknown why these payments were obscured.
“We don’t know all of what is being hidden by this scheme, but we do know that it violates the law,” said Fisher, whose name is on the complaint.
Campaign Legal Counsel has asked the FEC — the only federal agency dedicated to enforcing our laws governing presidential campaigns — to enforce sanctions against the Trump campaign.
This is impossible, however, because the FEC currently has only three commissioners — one short of the requirement to take action — following the resignation of Republican Caroline Hunter last month.
Citing a confidentiality policy, an FEC spokesman Tuesday declined to comment on whether the commission will be able to review the matter.