FEC complaint filed against Clinton campaign for illegal dossier payments

A non-partisan campaign watchdog group has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, alleging illegal payments by the Clinton campaign to the Democratic opposition research group Fusion GPS to fund a questionable dossier on Donald Trump.

The nonprofit Campaign Legal Center says the Clinton campaign hid the purpose of the payments, thus violating campaign finance laws.

Washington Times:

"By filing misleading reports, the DNC and Clinton campaign undermined the vital public information role of campaign disclosures," said Adav Noti, senior director of trial litigation and strategy at CLC and a former FEC official. "Voters need campaign disclosure laws to be enforced so they can hold candidates accountable for how they raise and spend money. The FEC must investigate this apparent violation and take appropriate action."

Media reports on Tuesday alleged that a lawyer for the Clinton campaign hired Fusion GPS to investigate Mr. Trump in April 2016. The private research firm reportedly hired Christopher Steele, a former British spy with ties to the FBI, to conduct the opposition research, and he compiled a dossier containing allegations about Mr. Trump's connections to Russia.

The Clinton campaign and the DNC funded the effort until the end of October 2016, just days before the election.

"Questions about who paid for this dossier are the subject of intense public interest, and this is precisely the information that FEC reports are supposed to provide," said Brendan Fischer, director of federal and FEC reform at CLC. "Payments by a campaign or party committee to an opposition research firm are legal, as long as those payments are accurately disclosed. But describing payments for opposition research as 'legal services' is entirely misleading and subverts the reporting requirements."

Campaign finance laws can be maddening and confusing.  But this breach is pretty straightforward.  There was a deliberate effort by the Clinton campaign to hide the purpose of these payments, knowing that if the reason was exposed, it would damage the campaign politically. 

That the campaign's operators didn't use the dossier to attack Trump during the campaign is irrelevant.  Obviously, anyone who took the information in the document at face value needed to have his head examined.  Some of what was in the dossier was so spurious as to be laughable.

But the law requires that the reason for the payments to be made be public and does not judge the efficacy of the information.  The fact that the campaign spent a billion dollars also makes one wonder what other similar violations of the law occurred over the course of the campaign.

A non-partisan campaign watchdog group has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, alleging illegal payments by the Clinton campaign to the Democratic opposition research group Fusion GPS to fund a questionable dossier on Donald Trump.

The nonprofit Campaign Legal Center says the Clinton campaign hid the purpose of the payments, thus violating campaign finance laws.

Washington Times:

"By filing misleading reports, the DNC and Clinton campaign undermined the vital public information role of campaign disclosures," said Adav Noti, senior director of trial litigation and strategy at CLC and a former FEC official. "Voters need campaign disclosure laws to be enforced so they can hold candidates accountable for how they raise and spend money. The FEC must investigate this apparent violation and take appropriate action."

Media reports on Tuesday alleged that a lawyer for the Clinton campaign hired Fusion GPS to investigate Mr. Trump in April 2016. The private research firm reportedly hired Christopher Steele, a former British spy with ties to the FBI, to conduct the opposition research, and he compiled a dossier containing allegations about Mr. Trump's connections to Russia.

The Clinton campaign and the DNC funded the effort until the end of October 2016, just days before the election.

"Questions about who paid for this dossier are the subject of intense public interest, and this is precisely the information that FEC reports are supposed to provide," said Brendan Fischer, director of federal and FEC reform at CLC. "Payments by a campaign or party committee to an opposition research firm are legal, as long as those payments are accurately disclosed. But describing payments for opposition research as 'legal services' is entirely misleading and subverts the reporting requirements."

Campaign finance laws can be maddening and confusing.  But this breach is pretty straightforward.  There was a deliberate effort by the Clinton campaign to hide the purpose of these payments, knowing that if the reason was exposed, it would damage the campaign politically. 

That the campaign's operators didn't use the dossier to attack Trump during the campaign is irrelevant.  Obviously, anyone who took the information in the document at face value needed to have his head examined.  Some of what was in the dossier was so spurious as to be laughable.

But the law requires that the reason for the payments to be made be public and does not judge the efficacy of the information.  The fact that the campaign spent a billion dollars also makes one wonder what other similar violations of the law occurred over the course of the campaign.

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