Trump Charged With Accepting Illegal Campaign Contributions In New FEC Complaint

A complaint has been filed with the Federal Election Commission against the Trump campaign, alleging it received illegal campaign contributions.

A new complaint has been filed against Donald Trump, charging the Republican with violation of federal election law. Questions have been raised about his acceptance of illegal campaign contributions after Election Day.

According to the Campaign Legal Center, who filed the complaint with the Federal Election Commission in conjunction with Common Cause, the Trump campaign reported contributions after Nov. 8 as being used for debt retirement, even though no debt existed. This miscategorization of fund use could allow Trump to accept more campaign donations in 2020 than are allowed by law.

Federal law restricts candidates from accepting any campaign contributions after the election unless they are used to pay off any debts acquired by the campaign or are used for future campaigns. According to the complaint filed, Trump’s campaign ended with no outstanding debt, and all contributions made after Nov. 8 should have been either refunded or earmarked for 2020.

The complaint states that Trump illegally reported all funds for debt retirement.

Larry Noble, general counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, said in a statement:

“By falsely reporting post-election contributions as being for 2016 debt retirement, Trump may be trying to illegally double what a contributor can give for the 2020 primaries.”

The complaint also alleges that Trump failed to register as a 2020 candidate in a timely fashion. A candidate must register to become a candidate for the next election within 15 days of raising $5,000 for an election. According to the Campaign Legal Center, Trump didn’t register until he was Inaugurated on Jan. 20, waiting over two months after reaching the $5,000 benchmark.

Common Cause vice president of policy and litigation Paul S. Ryan said:

“In the rush to cash in on an unexpected election victory, the Trump campaign began raising and misreporting millions of dollars in campaign contributions more than two months before Trump was even sworn into office.

“Campaign finance laws still apply even after you win the presidency and these transgressions, like the President’s refusal to release his taxes or separate himself from his business interests, hammer home the point that Trump’s campaign promise to drain the swamp in Washington was nothing more than lip service.”

According to The Daily Beast, the Trump campaign reported $760,000 in debt when it filed with the FEC after the election, but had enough cash on hand to cover all monies owing. The subsequent FEC report from the Trump campaign showed no outstanding debt, even though the campaign continued to raise money. According The Daily Beast, Trump’s campaign raised $10.5 million after Election Day, between Nov. 9 and Dec. 31, as reported to the FEC.

However, the campaign told the FEC that money from individuals and the Republican National Committee was used for debt reduction.

Law Newz provides an example of how this illegal filing could potentially bilk contributors out of money:

“The problem is that because that money was allegedly marked under the 2016 campaign, if undetected it would allow those same donors to give again to the 2020 campaign, potentially exceeding their legal contribution limits.

“For example, if a person gave their maximum $2,700 thinking it was going towards debt relief, and Trump marked it as such, they might then donate again for the 2020 campaign, even though that first donation should have maxed them out.”

The Trump campaign has repeatedly run afoul of the law when it comes to fundraising. In November 2016, the FEC investigated the campaign for $1.3 million in potentially illegal campaign contributions, according to The Hill.

In January, the FEC sent Trump a letter 250 pages long consisting of illegal campaign contributions to his campaign along with a demand to respond by Feb. 14 or risk audit or “enforcement action.”

Christina Wilkie of The Huffington Post tweeted access to the full document via Twitter.

The complaint from Campaign Legal Center and Common Cause can be read in its entirety here.

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