Watchdog Wants FEC to Investigate Trump 2016 Fundraising

WASHINGTON (CN) – A campaign watchdog group filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission Wednesday claiming President Donald Trump, his 2016 presidential campaign and the nonprofit Trump Foundation may have committed numerous campaign finance law violations.

In a 17-page complaint filed with the commission Wednesday afternoon, the nonprofit says the “soft money” violations first occurred ahead of the 2016 Iowa caucuses when donors at a campaign function were told “it is imperative that you all get out and caucus for Donald J. Trump and vote for Donald J. Trump.”

The campaign is then alleged to have directed the funds to the Trump Foundation, which used them to back checks “emblazoned with the Trump campaign slogan” to help get Trump elected.

The fundraising event was then live broadcast with Trump announcing donation amounts with some as high as $1 million.

The complaint then points to an email exchange a week later between Trump’s then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and Trump Foundation treasurer Allen Weisselberg.

“Is there any way we can make some disbursements [from the proceeds of the fundraiser] this week while in Iowa? Specifically on Saturday,” the emails say, according to the complaint. It also lists other email exchanges between Trump Foundation employees and Lewandowski which suggest the two organizations were coordinating funds.

“As a result, Donald J. Trump, Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., and the Donald J. Trump Foundation violated [laws dealing with receiving, directing, and spending soft money funds] in connection with an election for federal office that were not subject to the limitations, prohibitions, and reporting requirements,” the complaint reads.

Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform at the Campaign Legal Center, said in a statement shortly after the complaint was filed that this kind of exchange, taking money in through one channel and spending it on the campaign, counts as “soft money” and violates standard campaign donation limits of $2,700 per individual, per candidate.

“Trump and his campaign misused charitable resources to unlawfully influence his 2016 election,” Fischer said. “Candidates can raise money for charity, they just can’t do it in connection with an election. The FEC should enforce the soft money ban.”

The complaint mirrors one filed in federal court in New York last month which similarly targets the Trump Foundation for violating campaign finance and other nonprofit laws.

This case asks the commission to investigate theclaims and impose appropriate penalties if the alleged violations are proven.

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