The Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog group, filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission Tuesday accusing the Trump campaign of “laundering” $170 million through numerous companies, some with connections to former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale.
LEXINGTON, KY – NOVEMBER 04: Brad Parscale, campaign manager for U.S. President Donald Trump, … [+]
“The Trump campaign and Trump Make America Great Again Committee disguised nearly $170 million of campaign spending by laundering the funds through firms,” the complaint claims.
It adds that the firms are “headed by Trump’s recent campaign manager, Brad Parscale, and/or created by Trump campaign lawyers.”
The complaint alleges that the Trump campaign paid millions of dollars to campaign-connected vendors without reporting those payments to the FEC, specifically honing in on American Made Media Consultants (AMMC), a firm created by Parscale, which has been paid over $106 million, making it the campaigns largest vendor.
AMMC was ostensibly created to circumvent media buyers, but the complaint points to FCC records that show the campaign has used media buying firm Harris Sikes to place some of its ads, alleging the campaign is “failing to report payments to the firms and is instead using AMMC as a conduit for its payments to the firms.”
The complaint also points to an app called Phunware, which Parscale has said was created and is “directly owned” by the campaign, but which has never appeared in the campaign’s spending reports because, as the complaint alleges, it was paid through AMMC.
Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh denied the charges made in the complaint, telling Forbes, “The campaign reports all payments to AMMC as required by the FEC. The campaign complies with all campaign finance laws and FEC regulations.”
By failing to report payments to the campaign’s true vendors and employees, the Trump campaign and Trump Make America Great Again Committee have violated, and continue to violate, federal law’s transparency requirements,” the complaint asserts, adding that such activities “undermine the vital public information role that reporting is intended to serve.”
Parscale was named as Trump’s campaign manager in February 2018 but was replaced in that role by Bill Stepien earlier this month. Parscale’s firms have long been the object of media scrutiny for receiving large sums from the Trump campaign and for Parscale maintaining a lavish lifestyle well beyond the means of most presidential campaign managers.
“Voters have a right to know how campaigns are spending money to influence elections,” CLC founder and President Trevor Potter, a Republican and former FEC Chair, told CNN. “This scheme flies in the face of transparency requirements mandated by federal law, and it leaves voters and donors in the dark about where the campaign’s funds are actually going.”
The allegation comes amid reports that the Trump campaign also moved millions in campaign funds to Trump’s private business interests. Forbes’ Dan Alexander and Michela Tindera reported earlier this month that the Trump campaign has pushed nearly $7 million towards Trump’s businesses since the president entered office.
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The complaint asks the FEC, which regulates campaign finance, to “conduct an immediate investigation” and “seek appropriate sanctions for any and all violations, including civil penalties sufficient to deter future violations.”