The Campaign Legal Center, a non-partisan non-profit organization that monitors campaign practices and voting rights issues, filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission on Thursday against two SuperPACs that support Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump, as well as the Trump campaign itself. The complaint alleges that the organizations Rebuilding America Now and Make America Number 1 made contributions to the Trump campaign in excess of legal limits from “impermissible sources,” and failed to report them. Additionally, it details the influence that a particular donor family — runs one of the SuperPACs — has over Trump himself.
Normally, SuperPACs are allowed to raise unlimited funds, but only if they fit within FEC regulations. Groups are not allowed to coordinate communications with the campaign, which is exactly what the complaint says they did, by being too entangled with the candidate.
The Campaign Legal Center claims that “Make America Number 1 is inextricably intertwined with the Trump campaign,” because the organization’s former president, Kellyanne Conway, is now Trump’s campaign manager. The complaint alleges that “individuals who formed, fund and lead Make America Number 1” had something to do with hiring Conway, as well as Trump campaign CEO Stephen K. Bannon. The complaint says that Bannon’s past projects were funded by the same people who lead and fund the SuperPAC. Not only that, Make America Number 1 is accused of paying the salaries for Conway and Bannon while they work for the Trump campaign. While the details of the complaint do not appear to show any evidence of official salary payments, they do list payments from the campaign and the SuperPAC to Conway’s business, The Polling Company, in August 16, about a month and a half after she joined the campaign on July 1. Meanwhile, the complaint states that records do not show that the campaign paid Conway during July or August.
Make America Number 1 allegedly made payments to a company that shares an address with Bannon’s firm, Bannon Strategic Advisors, Inc. The Trump campaign also contracted a data firm for which Bannon is on the board, which is “owned by Make America Number 1’s owners and founders.” Specifically, the data firm, Cambridge Analytica, is also housed in the same building as Bannon’s firm, and is owned by Robert Mercer, who funds the SuperPAC. Make America Number 1 has also hired Cambridge Analytica. FEC rules say that a campaign and SuperPAC are not allowed to use the services of a “common vendor.”
The complaint further alleges that Rebekah Mercer, who runs the SuperPAC, and her father Robert have such influence over Trump that they have “de facto control over the campaign,” as well as actual control over Make America Number 1. Because the organization is so tied into the campaign, the complaint alleges, their contributions cannot be deemed independent and must be subject to the normal $2,700 maximum for political contributions. The Campaign Legal Center claims that the contributions that the SuperPAC has made for Trump (including pay for Conway and Bannon) is worth much more than that, thus violating FEC regulations. The complaint also alleges that the Trump campaign violated FEC rules by not reporting the contributions.
Regarding Rebuilding America Now, the complaint says that both Ken McKay and Laurance Gay were employed by the SuperPAC after previously working as staff members on the Trump campaign. FEC rules say that if a former campaign employee works for a SuperPAC within 120 of leaving the campaign, the SuperPAC’s communications are considered “coordinated.” Any communication coordinated with a candidate or their campaign is considered a contribution from the SuperPAC, and since the Rebuilding America Now has reportedly spent way more than the $2,700 maximum, they allegedly violated the FEC rules.
Along with the allegations that the two SuperPACs acted improperly, the complaint accuses the Trump campaign of illegally accepting “contributions in excess of federal limits.”
LawNewz.com reached out to Rebuilding America No, and the Trump campaign, but so far none have responded.
Larry Noble, general counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, said in a statement that the FEC has failed to keep the organizations in line, so they had to file the complaints. “We have been forced to file these complaints because a dysfunctional FEC has been sitting idly by as the campaigns of the presidential candidate of both major parties are involved in unprecedented coordination with super PACs in violation of the law.”
The Campaign Legal Center also filed an FEC complaint against the pro-Clinton SuperPAC Correct the Record.
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