scorecardTrump's campaign committee dodges penalty as federal watchdog deadlocks on complaint it laundered hundreds of millions of dollars
  1. Home
  2. Politics
  3. world
  4. news
  5. Trump's campaign committee dodges penalty as federal watchdog deadlocks on complaint it laundered hundreds of millions of dollars

Trump's campaign committee dodges penalty as federal watchdog deadlocks on complaint it laundered hundreds of millions of dollars

Dave Levinthal,C. Ryan Barber   

Trump's campaign committee dodges penalty as federal watchdog deadlocks on complaint it laundered hundreds of millions of dollars
PoliticsPolitics4 min read
  • The Federal Election Commission has "evenly divided" on a case involving Donald Trump's 2020 re-election committee.
  • A complaint alleged that Trump's campaign hid the true sources of its payments.

Federal regulators have deadlocked on a complaint that Donald Trump's 2020 White House campaign laundered hundreds of millions of dollars in spending through corporate entities closely tied to the ex-president and his family, according to a ruling document obtained by Insider.

The ruling by the Federal Election Commission, which the agency has not yet made public, does not offer reasons for the bipartisan body's decision on an arrangement detailed in late 2020 by Insider. The six-member commission was "equally divided" on several legal questions it considered, according to a letter it sent Monday to the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, which had filed a formal complaint.

Had the FEC ruled against the Trump campaign, Trump's committee could have faced significant fines.

The Campaign Legal Center alleged that the Trump campaign routed funds through two firms — American Made Media Consultants and Parscale Strategy — to conceal its spending in the 2020 presidential election.

The Trump campaign, it further contended, had failed to keep an "arm's length relationship" with American Made Media Consultants, citing Insider's reporting in December 2020 that Jared Kushner, the then-president's son-in-law and advisor, helped create a shell company that secretly paid the president's family members and spent $617 million in reelection cash.

In the complaint, the Campaign Legal Center said Trump's campaign funneled millions of dollars to American Made Media Consultants and Parscale Strategy, which then paid sub-vendors.

In addition to Kushner's involvement, the lawsuit notes Insider's reporting that American Made Media Consultants' board included family members of Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence. The other firm, Parscale Strategy, is run by former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale.

The Campaign Legal Center filed an initial complaint in July 2020 and a supplement to its complaint in January 2021, following Insider's reporting on Trump's campaign operations.

In March, the Campaign Legal Center sued the FEC in federal court, alleging that the commission was slow-walking its complaint against Trump's operation.

"The FEC is responsible for protecting voters' right to know how politicians are raising and spending money, but the FEC has abdicated its responsibilities for years — particularly when it comes to enforcing the law against the Trump campaign — so the FEC's deadlock over the campaign's massive concealment scheme is shameful but not surprising," Adav Noti, the Campaign Legal Center's vice president and legal director, told Insider.

A Trump spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment on the latest FEC ruling.

FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, a Democratic appointee and the agency's longest-tenured commissioner, confirmed Monday that she voted to find reason to believe the Trump campaign and related individuals had violated federal law.

"Disclosure is the core mission of the FEC, and it's important for an informed electorate to know where the money is coming from and where the money is going," Weintraub said.

She added that she was "disappointed that we did not have the votes to go forward" and expressed concern that such a decision will "look to the public like the commission is making decisions on a partisan basis."

The FEC's five other commissioners — Allen Dickerson, Shana Broussard, Trey Trainor, Steven Walther, and Sean Cooksey — did not immediately respond to inquiries.

More legal trouble for Trump

An adverse ruling from the FEC would have only added to Trump's legal woes.

Democratic Reps. Ted Lieu of California and Kathleen Rice of New York in December 2020 had asked both the FBI and FEC to investigate the shell company created by Kushner, in response to Insider's investigation. They argued that Trump's campaign may have violated laws barring the spending of campaign cash for personal use and public disclosure requirements when it spent its money through American Made Media Consultants.

Separately, Rep. Mark Pocan, a Democrat of Wisconsin, wrote in a December 2020 letter to then-Attorney General Bill Barr and then-FEC Chairman Trainor: "If Mr. Kushner's American Made Media Consultants did in fact spend $617 million as reported, he and his associates — which include additional Trump family members as well as the Vice President's nephew — could face penalties amounting to more than one billion dollars."

Trainor, one of three Trump-nominated commissioners currently on the FEC, worked as a lawyer in service of Trump's 2016 re-election effort.

In New York, Trump is facing investigations into his namesake business, with the Manhattan district attorney and the state attorney general mounting parallel inquiries. While the district attorney's investigation appears to be winding down, the New York Attorney General Letitia James' office has repeatedly signaled in recent months that it has a bounty of evidence against the Trump Organization.

During a court hearing Friday, an assistant New York attorney general said James' office had amassed a "substantial amount of evidence" that could support an enforcement action against against Trump's business. James had previously stated that her office has "uncovered significant evidence that suggests Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued multiple assets and misrepresented those values to financial institutions for economic benefit."

Trump is also facing continued scrutiny over his conduct in the White House. The New York Times reported last week that federal prosecutors have opened a grand jury investigation examining whether classified White House documents taken to Trump's home in Florida were mishandled. That inquiry stems from the National Archive's discovery that, at the end of his four-year term, Trump took 15 boxes from the White House that contained government documents, mementos, gifts and letters.

Meanwhile, the special House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol has been preparing for public hearings that are likely to address Trump's conduct leading up to the insurrection. The House panel recently subpoenaed five Republican lawmakers, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, all of whom are close allies of the former president.