Oct. 27, 2016 – The Campaign Legal Center today filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission based on an undercover investigation conducted by The Telegraph. The British newspaper’s reporting showed how representatives of a super PAC supporting Donald Trump attempting to arrange for a Chinese businessman to illegally contribute $2 million to the super PAC by funneling the money through a for-profit company and two 501(c)(4) organizations.
In emails with the reporters and secretly recorded meetings, Jesse Benton, a former chief strategist at Great America PAC, and Eric Beach, co-chairman of the pro-Trump Great America PAC, provided instructions on how a Chinese businessman could launder foreign money into the super PAC – a clear violation of the law.
While the article in The Telegraph contained excerpts of the videos, Larry Noble, general counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, was allowed to review the full recordings.
“After viewing the recordings, it is clear Mr. Benton and Mr. Beach were soliciting an illegal contribution and explaining how to launder the foreign money to the super PAC to avoid detection,” said Noble. “While no money changed hands, the solicitation of the money itself is illegal and the FEC must investigate.”
On the recordings, Benton suggested to the undercover reporters that he could help the foreign donor route the $2 million through Benton’s consulting firm. In turn, Benton’s company would donate the $2 million to two 501(c)(4s), which would then give those funds to the super PAC – leaving no trace that the money came from a foreign national. The super PAC officials also promised that Trump would be made aware of the foreign national’s secret contribution.
“We have long argued that dark money groups that influence elections but keep their donors secret are dangerous to our democracy – here is clear evidence as to why,” said Brendan Fischer, associate counsel for the Campaign Legal Center.
The undercover reporters at The Telegraph attempted similar operations with pro-Hillary Clinton super PACs but none responded to their approaches, according to the newspaper.
CLC previously filed a complaint against the Trump campaign itself for soliciting money from foreign nationals. CLC has also filed complaints this election cycle against both candidates for coordinating directly with their supporting super PACS.