According to a report from the Daily Beast's Roger Sollenberger, former president Donald Trump could be looking at a massive fine from the Federal Election Commission over the handling of $800 million in campaign donations.
At issue is how Trump's 2020 re-election campaign shuffled money around in his losing bid to remain in the Oval Office.
As Sollenberger wrote, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign was on the receiving end of a $113,000 fine from the FEC last week for its involvement in research for the so-called Steele file with the federal government claiming the campaign hid the payments.
Coming on the heels of that, Sollenberger reports watchdog group Campaign Legal Center previously filed a complaint with the FEC alleging Trump's people " violated federal campaign finance transparency requirements by routing hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign spending through intermediaries without disclosing the ultimate payees," and now a former FEC official has asked a judge to force them to investigate it.
According to the Beast report, the FEC -- "specifically its three Republican commissioners" -- has turned a blind eye to accusations against the Trump campaign but now, with the recent Clinton fine as a reminder, that may change.
"Dan Weiner, a former counsel at the FEC who now directs the Brennan Center's Elections and Government Program, said the Republican commissioners will have to contend with this precedent.," Sollenberger wrote, with Weiner explaining, "The FEC isn't exactly overzealous about enforcement, but you've got to have some modicum of accuracy. You can't describe something as 'legal services' when it's nothing like legal services."
Calling the Clinton fine "an interesting precedent," he added, "Historically both sides have placed some emphasis on consistency, and it will put some constraint on the commissioners to reconcile any refusal to go forwards in the Trump case."
After noting, "While it's inescapable that the three Republican commissioners are far more averse to action than the Democrats, there's debate over whether the rift is political or purely ideological. The conservatives may not specifically be in the bag for their own party, some observers argue—just less inclined to enforcement generally," the Beast report added, "The filing alleges that the Trump campaign laundered about $770 million in expenses to an unknown number of vendors through a single shell company. According to news reports, that company—American Made Media Consultants—was designed by members of Trump's inner circle (with Trump's blessing) specifically to conceal campaign payees from the public.'Like the Clinton complaint, CLC said the Trump arrangement "has hidden the identities of other sub-vendors' and the details of payments to those sub-vendors."
"CLC filed that initial complaint more than 600 days ago, but, according to Adav Noti, a former FEC attorney and current vice president at CLC, there has been "no indication" that the FEC has taken any action. So purely by coincidence, the same day that the Clinton news leaked to the press, Noti filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to order the FEC to move," Sollenberger reported, adding that Noti told him, "The law requires campaigns to disclose where they spend money and what they spend it on, because voters deserve to know where their money goes. But there's a growing problem in federal political campaigns of running spending through shell corporations to hide where it's going. We've seen it now in multiple election cycles, and campaigns for all federal offices."