As an in-depth story from Vice News reports, the Campaign Legal Center is claiming that the Trump campaign is violating federal law by circumventing federal election reporting requirements. Trump officials in the campaign and its RNC joint fundraising partner, the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, have allegedly “disguised over $170 million dollars of campaign spending by laundering the funds through firms headed by Trump’s recent campaign manager, Brad Parscale,” the complaint reads.
The complaint also alleges that funds were obfuscated by other officials, including the Trump campaign’s director of operations, Sean Dollman, and Alex Cannon, who works as special counsel to the campaign.
According to the Federal Election Campaign Act, campaigns must disclose information on any person or corporate entity that the campaign spends more than $200 on. The campaign must not only disclose the name and address of these expenses, but also the date, amount, and purpose behind the payment.
But as this complaint reveals, the Trump campaign is allegedly trying to hide how much they are spending and on whom by funneling the money through firms run by campaign officials. These 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.”
This is an attempted loophole, because the FEC doesn’t require campaigns to report money that “vendors,” or corporations receiving campaign payments, make to “subcontractors.” These firms can be law firms, political consulting firms, or other kinds of corporations that the campaign works with. As Vice points out, payments to their subcontractors don’t need to be disclosed if the subcontractor “is not working under the direction or control of the campaign.”
However, the complaint asserts that “available information indicates that the ultimate vendors are effectively working under the direction and control of the campaign, and are providing services to the campaign rather than to Parscale’s conduit firms.”
Trevor Potter, who is the founder of the Campaign Legal Center, a Republican, and a former chairman of the FEC, told Vice plainly that “the Trump campaign is violating the law.”
This level of slippery campaign conduct is abnormal according to Potter. “I can say I’ve never seen numbers like this,” he told Vice. “This percentage of spending, which is essentially off the books, is unprecedented.”
The secrecy presents an opportunity for speculation on how much the Trump campaign is paying certain top officials, including Trump’s children, or spending on unsavory internet expenditures, such as the campaign’s prior relationship with Cambridge Analytica. The possibilities are endless as long as the public is not able to see where the money is going.
Judging from Vice’s reporting, it seems like wishful thinking to hope that the FEC will do anything meaningful to address the complaint. Read the full story here.