Trump’s PAC faces scrutiny as legal scrutiny intensifies

WASHINGTON (AP) — With more than $115 million in funding across several political committees, Donald Trump has positioned himself as a unique and indomitable force within the Republican Party.

But that huge pile of money has also emerged as a potential vulnerability. His primary fundraising vehicle, the Save America PAC, is under renewed legal scrutiny after the Justice Department issued a series of grand jury subpoenas seeking information about the Political Action Committee’s fundraising practices. .

The scope of the investigation is unknown. Grand jury subpoenas and search warrants recently issued by the Justice Department touched on a number of topics, including Trump’s PAC, according to people familiar with the matter who requested anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation. The subpoena calls for records and testimony and asks at least some of the recipients if they knew of their involvement in election fraud, one of the people said.

The subpoena also seeks records of communications with Trump Alliance lawyers who supported efforts to overturn the election results and plotted to line up fake electors in battleground states. Particular focus will likely be on the “Save America Rally” that precedes the January 6, 2021 riots at the US Capitol, the person said.

The investigation is one of several criminal investigations currently facing Trump, including how documents containing classified markings were found at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago club. Includes hoisted scrutiny. Regardless of Save America’s ultimate role in the investigation, a series of developments have drawn attention to PAC’s management, how it raised its money, and where those funds were directed.

Trump spokesman Taylor Vuwitch condemned the subpoena, saying that a “weaponized and politicized Department of Justice” is “threatening and silencing Republicans fighting for his America First agenda.” A Justice Department representative declined to comment.

Trump has more than $115 million in various committees, most of which is held in Save America. PAC closed in July with more than $99 million in cash for him, according to funding records.

Since then, Trump has continued to raise small donations, frustrating other Republicans struggling to raise money for the November midterm elections.

Save America is set up as a “Leadership PAC” designed to help politicians raise money for other campaigns. But these groups are often used by candidates to fund political travel, votes, and staff to “test the water” before a potential presidential election. , can also be used to donate to other candidates and party organizations, helping candidates build political capital.

Much of the money Trump raised came in the days and weeks after the 2020 election. At that time, Trump supporters were bombarded with a constant stream of emails and texts. Many contained all-caps letters and blatant lies about stolen 2020 elections and wanted cash for an “election defense fund.”

However, no such fund has ever existed. Instead, Trump put the money to other uses. He funded dozens of rallies, paid staff, and used the money for travel while hinting at what to expect in the 2024 presidential election.

Other costs are more extraordinary. Last year, the Conservative Partnership Institute, the nonprofit that employs Creta Mitchell and former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who helped fuel Trump’s failed attempt to overturn the 2020 election, received $1 million. donated.

According to Smithsonian spokesperson Linda St. Thomas, the Smithsonian Institution received a $650,000 “charity donation” in July to fund portraits of Trump and the former first lady.

Many of the funds also fund another type of defense fund. The fund paid for the legal costs of Trump’s close friends and aides who were called to testify before the committee on Jan. 6.

Overall, Trump’s vast political campaign has spent at least $8 million in “legal consultations” and “legal costs” with at least 40 law firms since the riots, according to a campaign finance disclosure analysis.

It’s unclear how much of the money was spent on legal fees for staff after a congressional committee began investigating the causes of the attacks. At least $1.1 million was paid to Elections LLC, a firm founded by lawyer Stefan Passantino. He was also paid $1 million to a legal trust at the same address as Passantino’s company. Passantino did not respond to a request for comment Monday night. Payments are also made to companies that specialize in environmental regulation and real estate issues.

As of July, only about $750,000 had been distributed to candidates for Congress, and another $150,000 to candidates for state office. Trump is expected to increase political spending, but it remains unclear how much the former president, who is notoriously frugal, will ultimately agree to spend.

Trump has long been shy about his plans for 2024, and the formal announcement will trigger campaign finance rules, some of which will force him to create a new election commission bound by stringent funding restrictions. I said yes.

Meanwhile, Trump aides have been discussing the possibility of creating new super PACs or repurposing existing ones as we get closer to the expected announcement. After Trump launched his campaign, he was unable to use Save America to fund his campaign, according to a person familiar with the talks, but he did direct at least some of that money to a super PAC. The aide said they discussed the possibility of moving.

Campaign finance experts are divided over the legality of such a move. Others, like Columbia Law School professor and campaign finance expert Richard Brifort, say there is nothing wrong.

“There may be some hoops he has to jump through,” he said. But “I don’t think he’ll have a problem moving from one PAC to another PAC…I don’t know what’s preventing it.”

Others disagree.

“It is illegal for a candidate to transfer large sums of money from a leadership PAC to a super PAC. Adav Noti, who works at the Legal Center, said.

And whether Trump will face any consequences is another matter.

For years, the FEC, which cracks down on campaign finance laws, has been in a stalemate. The committee is split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, and a majority vote is required to take enforcement action against a candidate.

Indeed, legal experts say Trump has repeatedly flouted campaign finance laws since he ran for the White House in 2016, with no results.

More than 50 lawsuits have been filed against Trump alleging campaign finance violations since the 2016 campaign. In about half of these cases, FEC attorneys concluded they had reason to believe he may have broken the law. But the committee, which includes three Trump-appointed Republicans, has repeatedly stalled.

The list of dismissed complaints against Trump is extensive. In 2021, Republicans on the committee, with the support of FEC staff lawyers, said Trump orchestrated a hush payment by former lawyers to pornographic film star Stormy Daniels in an unreported in-kind donation. In May, the commission similarly stalled on whether his campaign broke the law, hiding how he spent the cash during his 2020 campaign.

And over the summer, the commission announced $391 million in aid to Ukraine unless Ukrainian authorities opened an investigation into the ties between President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden and a Ukrainian gas company called Burisma. dismissed complaints stemming from Trump’s threats to withhold. Lawyers ruled that campaign finance law violations may have occurred.

In a written statement late last month, three Republicans on the committee said, “Congress intended the FEC to crack down on official government action that could have been intended to aid the re-election of public officials. There is no legal basis for believing that,” he said.

This means that enforcement actions are likely to come from the Department of Justice.

“He has nothing to fear from the Federal Election Commission until the structure of the Federal Election Commission changes or there is a replacement of the FEC Commission,” said Harmon Curran, a Washington-based firm who works for the Republican Party. Represented both Democrats. “That doesn’t mean he fears nothing from the Department of Justice, which is apparently investigating Save America. I have.”

Meanwhile, Trump and Save America continue to solicit donations from grassroots supporters, blowing down fundraising solicitations with offensive demands such as “this needs to be addressed now” and asking donors to pay their bills. “Voter Verification” Canvas Survey Threatens to be “Out of”. Even though some of the Republican senators Trump endorsed and helped drag across the finish line in the primary are struggling to raise money.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-K.) has urged these candidates to demand money from Trump, but the former president has so far been reluctant to provide it. has been proven to be So a candidate who called himself an opponent of McConnell during the primary election ended up succumbing to McConnell and the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC he controls and has a $100 million reserve. rice field.

It also strengthens McConnell’s hand in a long-running feud with Trump that has prompted Republican senators to oust Kentucky Republicans. but said he did not consider it his responsibility to fill in the blanks.


Colvin reported from New York. Trump’s PAC faces scrutiny as legal scrutiny intensifies

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