February 22, 2019
New tax documents obtained by CREW shed light on the finances of a dark money group tied to longtime Trump associate Roger Stone, who was indicted last month on felony charges in Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation. The group itself is reportedly facing scrutiny in the Mueller probe, but the tax documents have not been made public until now.
After missing their filing deadline by more than eight months, the 2016 tax returns for the 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, called Committee for American Sovereignty Education Fund (CASEF), were filed with the IRS in July 2018, before quickly being amended weeks later. The submission of the filings may have coincided with scrutiny of the group by Special Counsel Mueller’s investigators, and may suggest activity by Mueller’s team behind the scenes.
Both CASEF’s original and amended tax filings disclose payments to a vendor, Citroen Associates, whose owner has been subpoenaed by Mueller. Two weeks after the IRS received the original filing, CASEF filed an amendment, signed on July 27, 2018, that disclosed $158,500 in payments for legal services to a vendor, Jensen & Associates, that were not disclosed on the original filing.
Jensen & Associates is an Orange County personal injury law firm with its own ties to Stone. The firm is led by Paul Rolf Jensen, who has represented Stone in a past legal matter. During the 2016 election cycle, the firm received payments totalling more than $200,000 from three political committees with connections to Stone, including $3,338 from the Trump campaign around the time Stone served as an advisor to it. Jensen may be related to the person who prepared CASEF’s tax filings, whose name is Pamela Jensen.
The other two groups that made payments to Jensen & Associates during the 2016 cycle are the Committee to Restore America’s Greatness, which was run by Stone in 2016, and the Committee for American Sovereignty (CAS), which received funding from CASEF. Both committees are super PACs. The former group is now known to be under investigation by Mueller.
CAS may also be under investigation. In 2018, the group mysteriously amended four of its 2016 campaign finance filings filed with the FEC just a few weeks after CASEF’s IRS amendment to disclose that previously reported payments were linked to Jensen & Associates and changing the name of the treasurer to Pamela Jensen, the treasurer of CASEF. CASEF’s tax return shows the nonprofit contributed $16,500 to CAS in 2016.
In November 2018, the New York Times reported that CASEF was being investigated as part of Mueller’s inquiry into Stone. In spite of the fact that the group should have submitted a tax form showing its finances and other information to the IRS by November 2017, the Times reported that no documents on the group seemed to be available from the IRS.
That is apparently because the form wasn’t filed until July 2018, eight months late. It shows around $700,000 in receipts and spending. Despite the fact that it was submitted late, the form was signed on the day it was due, as if the group intended to submit it on time.
The recently released tax filings raise several questions. First, why was the form not submitted to the IRS when it was signed in November 2017? Second, why do political groups linked to Stone all seem to make payments to the same Orange County personal injury law firm? Third, why did this group, and the super PAC that’s related to it, omit payments to the law firm in its original filings?
There is also the issue of who precisely was funding CASEF. Social welfare organizations like CASEF can raise unlimited amounts of money from corporations and individuals without disclosing those funders’ identities, keeping the public in the dark about who is behind these groups’ spending.
Lastly, despite significant fundraising and spending, neither return names any individuals who served as officers or board members for the group during 2016.
It’s possible that Special Counsel Mueller’s inquiry will answer at least some of the questions these filings raise. The owner of CASEF’s top vendor, Citroen Associates, was subpoenaed by Mueller in the spring of last year. His testimony could show, for example, why CASEF’s tax return was not submitted for months after it was due, and why the original filing did not accurately disclose where the group’s money went.