Did Nancy Pelosi defraud contributors with a false promise to match their donations?

Axios reports a scoop:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's campaign committee has repeatedly promised her donors she would personally match their financial contributions, but as of the last reporting period she hadn't provided a dime of her own money, records show.

I have deliberately placed myself on various Democrat mailing lists (there are few sacrifices I won't make for our readers) and can confirm that I have received many pleas for donations from Nancy with the offer of matching what I donate.

Nancy Pelosi for Congress sent at least 50 fundraising emails from January through March, pledging she would "personally" match contributions up to a certain multiple.

  • That's according to an Axios analysis of a political email archive maintained by researchers at Princeton University.
  • "This is so critical, I'm personally 4x-matching all gifts for these final 24 hours," declared a typical email, sent in Pelosi's voice in January.
  • Yet reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show Pelosi did not donate any personal funds to her campaign during the first quarter, nor has she ever done so.

As Axios notes, candidates can donate unlimited sums to their own campaigns, but they face the same limits on donations to other candidates as the rest of us do.  So Nancy Pelosi could not personally match donations to Democrat candidates in excess of $2,800 per election and $5,000 per year.

When it comes to legal liability, Axios has this to say:

The big picture: Donation-matching is one of a number of popular fundraising gimmicks, yet critics say that in most cases, it's doubtful any actual matching occurs.

  • The Justice Department recently signaled it considers such offers to be legally questionable if donations aren't actually matched as promised.

I would think so.  In addition to campaign donation laws, what about federal wire fraud law?

Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. If the violation occurs in relation to, or involving any benefit authorized, transported, transmitted, transferred, disbursed, or paid in connection with, a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency (as those terms are defined in section 102 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5122)), or affects a financial institution, such person shall be fined not more than $1,000,000 or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both.

If Pelosi "obtain[ed] money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises" using interstate electronic communications, then isn't she liable for up to a million bucks in fines and up to thirty years in the federal pen?

Caricature by Donkey HoteyCC BY 2.0 license.

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