Trump Campaign Could Have Made Illegal Payments to Stormy Daniels, Watchdog Group Says
Alana Abramson, Fortune January 22, 2018
A nonpartisan watchdog group has filed complaints with both the Department of Justice and Federal Election Commission alleging that the reported payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels, who said she once had an affair with President Donald Trump, arguably violates campaign finance laws and should be subject to an investigation.
The group, Common Cause, sent copies of the complaint Monday to the FEC and the DOJ, the latter of which was addressed to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and accompanied by a letter requesting an investigation into the payment.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that in 2016, Trump’s longtime attorney Michael Cohen had arranged for a payment of $130,000 to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, to prevent her from publicizing an alleged sexual account that had occurred a decade earlier with the then-candidate. He paid her, according to the Journal, through a bank account linked to company called Essential Consultants LLC, which he set up in Delaware a month before the presidential election.
The complaint alleges that the payment was illegal because it was designed to influence the election and, at 130,000, it exceeds the maximum amount of $2,700 per person allotted under campaign finance law. The source of the $130,000 has also not been revealed, the complaint argues, and any individual who contributes over $200 to a campaign must disclose his or her identity. Since donations from corporations to federal candidates are prohibited, the complaint urges the DOJ and FEC to investigate the source.
“These apparent violations are not simple bookkeeping errors, but seemingly a deliberate evasion of the laws on the books to ensure Americans get a full accounting of the money raised and spent by and for candidates for the presidency,” Paul S. Ryan, the vice president for policy and litigation at Common Cause who filed the complaints, explained. “These actions are just the latest examples of the president, his family, his campaign, and subsequently administration, playing fast and loose with the laws that apply to them.”
In an e-mail to Fortune, Cohen called the complaint “baseless” and denied that Trump misled the FEC. “The Common Cause complaint is baseless along with the allegation that President Trump filed a false report to the FEC,” he wrote. He did not respond to follow up questions for clarification about this statement and the payment as a whole.
The Justice Department and the White House did not immediately respond to request for comment. A representative for the FEC was out of the office due to the government shutdown.