The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) may have violated campaign finance laws by failing to properly disclose their financing of the dossier which helped spark the claims there was a Trump-Russia conspiracy.
Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan nonprofit on election laws, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on Oct. 25 that alleges that the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign committee violated campaign finance laws.
“They failed to accurately disclose the purpose and recipient of payments for the dossier of research alleging connections between then-candidate Donald Trump and Russia, effectively hiding these payments from public scrutiny, contrary to the requirements of federal law,” states a press release from the organization.
The complaint follows an Oct. 24 article from The Washington Post, which said the DNC and Hillary for America had financed the dossier produced by opposition research firm Fusion GPS.
During the 2016 elections, the dossier was circulated among news outlets, government officials, and federal agencies, and spread unsubstantiated claims that Russia held influence over President Donald Trump. Despite its broad circulation, no news outlet, congressional committee, or agency has been able to verify its claims.
Campaign Legal Center points out that neither the DNC nor the Clinton campaign was clear on how they were paying Fusion GPS for the dossier. It notes they “routed the money through the law firm Perkins Coie and described the purpose as ‘legal services’ on their FEC reports rather than research.”
It notes, “By law, campaign and party committees must disclose the reason money is spent and its recipient.”
The Clinton team even lied to journalists about the dossier. New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman stated on Twitter on Oct. 24 that “Folks involved in funding this lied about it, and with sanctimony, for a year.”
Folks involved in funding this lied about it, and with sanctimony, for a year https://t.co/vXKRV1wRJc
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) October 24, 2017
Another New York Times reporter, Ken Vogel, also said he was lied to about the dossier. He stated on Twitter on Oct. 24, “When I tried to report this story, Clinton campaign lawyer @marceelias pushed back vigorously, saying ‘You (or your sources) are wrong.'”
— Kenneth P. Vogel (@kenvogel) October 24, 2017
Adav Noti, senior director of trial litigation and strategy at Campaign Legal Center, said in the release, “By filing misleading reports, the DNC and Clinton campaign undermined the vital public information role of campaign disclosures.”
“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,” said Noti, who previously served as the FEC’s Associate General Counsel for Policy.
Brendan Fischer, director of federal and FEC reform at Campaign Legal Center stated in the release, “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.”
He further explained the FEC laws, and their importance, noting that “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.”