The Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton’s campaign violated campaign finance laws by failing to accurately disclose payments related to the so-called Trump Dossier, the non-partisan Campaign Legal Center said in a complaint filed today with the Federal Election Commission.
According to a recent reports in the media, Marc Elias, who also served as the Clinton campaign lawyer, paid opposition research firm Fusion GPS to produce the dossier which exposed alleged connections between Donald Trump and Russia government. It also contained salacious allegations about Trump’s personal escapades. According to reports, the Hillary for America campaign paid for the research but routed the payments through Elias’ law firm Perkins Coie and described the purpose of the money as “legal services” on their FEC disclosures. The DNC and the Clinton campaign reported dozens of payments totaling more that $12 million dollars to Perkins Coie over the course of the campaign.
“By filing misleading reports, the DNC and Clinton campaign undermined the vital public information role of campaign disclosures,” said Adav Noti, with the Campaign Legal Center in a statement obtained by LawNewz. Noti previously served as the FEC’s Associate General Counsel for Policy. “Voters need campaign disclosure laws to be enforced so they can hold candidates accountable for how they raise and spend money. The FEC must investigate this apparent violation and take appropriate action.”
According to FEC reports, Clinton’s campaign reported 37 payments to the law firm and reported each disbursement as “Legal Services.” The DNC reported 345 payments to Perkins Coie during the election cycle and marked the payments as “legal and compliance consulting,” “administrative fees,” “data services subscription” and others.
“The purpose of at least some portion of the payments to Perkins Coie was not for legal services; instead, those payments were intended to fund opposition research,” the FEC complaint reads. “This false reporting clearly failed the Commission’s requirements for disclosing the purpose of a disbursement.”
It is legal under current campaign finance law for the Hillary Clinton campaign to commission an opposition research company to dig up dirt on Donald Trump. What is not legal, according to campaign legal experts, is for the campaign to pay a law firm who then hires other to perform campaign related activities without reporting the purpose of the expenditures.
If the FEC finds that there was a violation, the DNC and the Clinton campaign could face fines. The fines could be higher if the FEC finds that they intentionally mislead the public.
“Hillary for America and the DNC complied with all campaign finance laws, including their obligations to appropriately report and describe the purpose of all of their expenditures. This research work was to support the provision of legal services, and payments made by vendors to sub-vendors are not required to be disclosed in circumstances like this. This complaint fails to even note the Federal Election Commission’s affirmation in 2013 of the relevant rule, notes no authority to the contrary, and is patently baseless,” Graham M. Wilson, Partner at Perkins Coie said in a statement to LawNewz.com.
“Tom Perez and the new leadership of the DNC were not involved in any decision-making regarding Fusion GPS, nor were they aware that Perkins Coie was working with the organization. But let’s be clear, there is a serious federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, and the American public deserves to know what happenned,” DNC communications director Xochitl Hinojosa said in a statement obtained by CNN.
The Campaign Legal Center is a 501 non partisan organization that focuses on campaign finance law. They have filed several complaints against both the Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton campaigns during the 2016 election.
This is a breaking story and we will update accordingly.