The Federal Election Commission must investigate whether Donald Trump’s campaign illegally attempted to hide settlement payments by routing the payments through third parties, according to a complaint filed today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The allegations of wrongdoing stem from former Trump campaign employee AJ Delgado’s sworn declaration in her pending lawsuit against Trump and his campaign over her claims of pregnancy discrimination.

Delgado’s declaration stated that in 2017, a lawyer representing Make America Great Again PAC—which was converted from Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign committee–offered to serve as a passthrough for a settlement payment to her—a scheme that would allow the PAC to evade federal campaign finance law’s requirement that political committees report the recipients and purposes of their disbursements. When Delgado’s lawyer allegedly objected to the proposal because it would break the law, the Trump campaign’s lawyer replied that it would not be a problem, and that “[w]hat we would do is the Campaign pays me and then I cut a check to you guys.” Delgado went on to declare that “I have information and reason-to-believe” that payments made to the campaign lawyer’s firm and another entity were to pay settlements of, and legal services related to, complaints of gender discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, and sexual harassment.

“The allegations made in AJ Delgado’s declaration paint a deeply troubling picture of potentially illegal activity carried out by Donald Trump’s campaign,” said CREW President Noah Bookbinder. “The FEC must conduct an investigation to determine the validity of these claims and establish the degree to which any wrongdoing occurred.”

Donald Trump previously admitted to using pass-through payments to disguise the true purpose of payments. Notably, Trump reimbursed Michael Cohen, his former lawyer, for payments made to “catch and kill” a story concerning Trump’s alleged extra-marital relations. The Federal Election Campaign Act requires political committees to provide detailed and truthful information about who they are paying and why they are paying them, even if they would reveal facts embarrassing to the campaign.

“The American people need to know what campaigns are spending money for, and schemes to hide that information undercut Americans’ faith in our political system. Donald Trump’s own admission of using pass-through payments to hide their purpose and protect his political prospects makes it even more important that the FEC investigate,” said Bookbinder. “No candidate or campaign is above the law, not even Trump.”

Photo by Gage Skidmore under a Creative Commons license.

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