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FEC Sued for Failing to Act on Complaints Against Trump Campaign

March 29, 2022 by Reece Nations
FEC Sued for Failing to Act on Complaints Against Trump Campaign
Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Fla. Multiple people who have spoken with Trump and his team in recent weeks say they sense a shift, with the former president increasingly acting and talking like he plans to mount another White House bid. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

WASHINGTON — The Campaign Legal Center filed a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission for its failure to act on a campaign spending disclosure complaint made against the campaign committee of former President Donald Trump.

The CLC filed its complaint in July 2020 in which the watchdog group alleged one of the former president’s authorized joint fundraising committees violated the disclosure requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act. Rather than disclosing itemized payments to each vendor or individual actually working for the committees as the law requires, the CLC maintains in the lawsuit that the Trump Make America Great Again Committee instead laundered hundreds of millions of dollars of campaign funds from the 2020 election through firms managed by senior campaign officials.

In January 2021, the CLC filed a supplement to the administrative complaint that contained further evidence of the Trump committee’s actions to route his campaign’s spending through conduits that disguised ultimate payees, payout amounts, their dates and purposes of such payments in violation of the law.

“To [the CLC’s] knowledge, the FEC has taken no action on the July 2020 administrative complaint or January 2021 supplement,” the text of the lawsuit reads. “Accordingly, even as likely 2024 hopefuls — including former President Trump — are already beginning to lay the groundwork for presidential election campaigns, [the] CLC and voters remain in the dark about how the Trump campaign spent its money in 2020.”

The Federal Election Campaign Act was adopted in 1971 to monitor the raising and spending of money in federal elections and impose regulations on the amount of campaign contributions that can be made to candidates and parties. In addition, the law mandates the disclosure of contributions and expenditures in campaigns for federal office, which the CLC alleges Trump’s campaign committees failed to do.

The group’s original complaint alleged the Trump campaign and Trump Make America Great Again Committee concealed nearly $170 million of campaign spending by laundering the funds through firms headed by Trump’s recent campaign manager, Brad Parscale, or firms created by campaign lawyers. Now, the CLC is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to force the FEC to take action on the complaint by conducting an investigation to determine whether a violation had occurred or was about to occur, according to the lawsuit.

Trump and his campaign have been referred to the FEC 43 times over the past six years for possible campaign finance violations and none have resulted in penalties, although the commission’s nonpartisan Office of General Counsel found reason to believe that violations had occurred in 22 of the cases, according to the office’s filings. Half of the FEC’s commissioners are Republicans appointed by Trump.

“The repeated failure of the FEC to enforce campaign finance laws has resulted in an explosion of secret spending, and as a result, our politics are increasingly rigged in favor of special interests,” Trevor Potter, president of the CLC and former chairman of the FEC, said in a written statement accompanying the lawsuit’s announcement. “The law here is clear: voters have a right to know whom a campaign is paying and how much and for what they are being paid. This is vital knowledge for those looking to make informed decisions when evaluating candidates and their messages.”

Neither the CLC nor Trump’s office responded to The Well News’ requests for comment on the lawsuit. 

Reece can be reached at reece@thewellnews.com

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