Watchdog alleges Trump campaign illegally concealed $170 million in spending

A nonpartisan watchdog filed a complaint with the Federal Election Committee (FEC) on Tuesday alleging President TrumpDonald John TrumpTeachers union launches 0K ad buy calling for education funding in relief bill FDA head pledges 'we will not cut corners' on coronavirus vaccine Let our values drive COVID-19 liability protection MORE’s reelection campaign broke the law by “laundering” $170 million in spending in an effort to conceal payments to people close to the Trump family and campaign.

The 81-page complaint, filed by the Campaign Legal Center (CLC), alleges that former Trump campaign manager Brad ParscaleBradley (Brad) James ParscaleMORE used a “pass-through” company to pay downstream vendors, including Trump campaign members, associates and family members.

“This illegal conduit scheme leaves voters in the dark about the entities working for the Trump campaign, the nature of their services, and the full amount they are paid,” said Brendan Fischer, the CLC’s director of federal reform. “We don’t know all of what is being hidden by this scheme, but we do know that it violates the law.”

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The CLC has asked the FEC to investigate and take action against the campaign for funneling payments through the American Made Media Consultants (AMMC), which is the parent company the Trump campaign allegedly used to conceal the payments.

The Trump campaign told The Hill it has done nothing wrong. Spokesman Tim Murtaugh said AMMC is responsible for “arranging and executing media buys and related services at fair market value.”

“AMMC does not earn any commissions or fees. It builds efficiencies and saves the campaign money by providing these in-house services that otherwise would be done by outside vendors,” Murtaugh said. “The campaign reports all payments to AMMC as required by the FEC. The campaign complies with all campaign finance laws and FEC regulations.”

The Trump campaign is a massive organization. It has raised more than $947 million this cycle and has thousands of employees.

Parscale had overseen the campaign’s spending until he was demoted a few weeks ago. Some Republicans had criticized Parscale for contracting out campaign work to his own firms and clients, but the Trump campaign has defended his spending.

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The CLC complaint alleges the Trump campaign cleared $170 million through AMMC, which it says was used as a “clearinghouse” for payments that were steered to friendly political consulting firms or people who did not register the payments with the FEC.

“The firms serve as conduits that receive millions in payments from the campaign and disburse the funds to the campaign’s ultimate vendors, thereby concealing the campaign’s transactions with those vendors,” the complaint reads.

“By failing to report payments to the campaign’s true vendors and employees, the Trump campaign and Trump Make America Great Again Committee have violated, and continue to violate federal law’s transparency requirements and undermine the vital public information role that reporting is intended to serve,” it adds.