BALTIMORE (CN) — Citing reports that his donors were not asked for required information as basic as their addresses, two nonpartisan campaign-finance groups urged the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday to investigate President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee.
Trump’s committee raised more than $100 million for his Jan. 20 festivities, and its 510-page report about its fundraising is a public document on the FEC’s website.
The report was supposed to disclose the names and addresses of all donors who gave more than $200 to the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee since Nov. 29, 2016, but Huffington Post discovered a stream of irregularities in the report after conducting a crowd-sourced investigation through its Citizen Sleuth Project.
Trump’s committee chalked the errors up to “technical glitches” in a comment for HuffPo’s April 25 article, but reporter Christina Wilkie noted that the errors suggest “that the committee failed to perform even basic checks to ensure that its record-keeping was accurate, a requirement under FEC guidelines.”
Campaign Legal Center counsel Brendan Fischer told HuffPo that the reporting requirements should not have come as a surprise.
“These are not new rules, and this looks like negligence,” Fischer said.
HuffPo noted that the Trump committee had cleared up some of the more bizarre aspects of its donor list, including a record of a $25,000 donation from a woman named Katherine Johnson, whose address was given as that of NASA.
Viewers of the recent biopic “Hidden Figures" might remember a NASA mathematician with the same name from the film, but relatives of this Johnson insist she made no such a donation.
HuffPo quoted a committee spokesman as apologizing and saying that its donor’s true address was in California.
The article also discusses difficulty in tracing a $400,000 donation from an “Isabel T. John,” whose address was given as an empty lot in New Jersey.
The committee spokesman blamed Citibank for this error, saying it used the Englewood address to facilitate a transfer from a donor whose name should have been listed as “Isabel and John Tonelli.”
Citing dozens of error-riddled entries in this vein, the groups Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 filed a complaint Tuesday with the FEC, pushing for an investigation.
“It appears that the Trump Inaugural Committee did not take even a minimal level of care to meet its legal obligation to submit accurate financial disclosure reports to the FEC identifying the sources of the millions of dollars it raised,” Democracy 21 general counsel Donald Simon said in a statement. “This failure deprived the public of important information it is entitled to about who contributed what to pay for President Trump’s inauguration.”
Simon urged the FEC to sanction the committee for its “shoddy reporting.”
In one instance, the report disclosed approximately 83 donations, “under five different names, from the single address 425 2nd St NE in Washington D.C.”
This is the address for the National Republic Senatorial Committee.
The 58th Inaugural Committee did not respond to a request for comment on the complaint. Trump’s two inaugural balls drew a combined total of roughly 30,000 guests.
In addition to the committee, the complaint with the FEC takes aim at committee CEO Sara Armstrong and designated officer Doug Ammerman.
Ammerman may have individually violated another reporting requirement “by falsely affirming that the report was true, correct, and complete,” the complaint says.
Tuesday’s complaint comes two months after the Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint with the FEC about apparent attempts by the Trump campaign committee to evade contribution limits by falsely reporting donations raised after Election Day for “debt retirement.”
The center notes that there is no such net debt, and that “the Trump campaign committee altered its FEC filing in April, redesignating thousands of entries that CLC had flagged.”
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