Watchdog group accuses the Trump campaign and family members of engaging in 'schemes' that hid massive election spending and likely broke federal law

  • An election watchdog group has filed an updated complaint with the FEC against the Trump campaign.
  • The complaint cites Insider's reporting on American Made Media Consultants, a secretive shell company the Trump campaign operated
  • The complaint asserts that Trump's team and family members may have violated federal law. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Former President Donald Trump's campaign committee and several family members participated in "schemes" to disguise the true nature of their election spending, in violation of federal law, the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center asserts in a new update to an existing federal complaint.

The supplement, filed Thursday morning with the Federal Election Commission, is in part based on Insider's reporting in December about American Made Media Consultants, a secretive shell company that operated inside Trump's 2020 campaign committee.

American Made Media Consultants, the shell company, along with a political firm owned by former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, "served as conduits that hid the ultimate recipients of nearly half of the campaign's overall spending," the updated complaint states. 

"These schemes disguised which firms or individuals were working for Trump's committees, how much and when they were being paid, and the purposes of those payments," it continued.

In December, Insider reported that Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, helped create AMMC. 

Kushner then directed three key members of Trump's orbit — daughter-in-law Lara Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence's nephew John Pence, and Trump campaign Chief Financial Officer Sean Dollman — to serve on the shell company's board. A top deputy to Eric Trump, the former president's middle son, also helped build AMMC.

Meanwhile, Lara Trump and Kimberly Guilfoyle, the girlfriend of Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., received payments routed through AMMC, Insider reported.

Read more: Jared Kushner helped create a Trump campaign shell company that secretly paid the president's family members and spent $617 million in reelection cash, a source tells Insider

The Campaign Legal Center specifically accused the Trump campaign of violating a federal law that requires political committees to publicly disclose the "ultimate payees" of its campaign spending if the payee doesn't have an "arm's-length" relationship with the political committee. 

The supplemental complaint also names the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a joint fundraising panel composed of the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee, and since November 18, the Trump-led Save America PAC. 

"The involvement of Kushner and other senior campaign officials in AMMC's formation is additional evidence that the Trump campaign did not have an "arm's-length" relationship with the firm," the Campaign Legal Center wrote the FEC. "Instead, AMMC was merely an extension of the campaign, and the campaign used it to keep voters in the dark about how the campaign was spending its money." 

The Trump campaign "hid an incredible amount of money," Campaign Legal Center Director of Federal Reform Brendan Fischer said in an interview. "The public has a right to know how presidential campaigns spend their money and who they're paying and for what purposes."

Following Insider's reporting, two Democratic lawmakers — Reps. Ted Lieu of California and Kathleen Rice of New York — have already separately asked both the FEC and FBI to investigate AMMC.

Rep. Mark Pocan, a Wisconsin Democrat, similarly asked the FEC and Justice Department to investigate. 

A spokesman for the Trump campaign did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday morning.

Trump lost re-election last year despite his campaign and the RNC raising nearly $2 billion as of late November, according to FEC records.

In the best of times, the six-commissioner, bipartisan FEC can take months, if not years to review, investigate, and vote on complex complaints. As a civil law enforcement body, it may issue fines to political committees and actors it determines have violated federal campaign laws.

But the FEC has just emerged from a 15-month period where it mostly lacked enough commissioners to enforce federal campaign finance laws and now faces a backlog of more than 400 enforcement cases.

It may therefore be well into the 2024 presidential election cycle — when Trump himself could again potentially run — before the FEC rules on the Campaign Legal Center's complaint. 

"We certainly hope the FEC will prioritize this matter," Fischer said. 

The Campaign Legal Center has not filed a complaint with the Department of Justice, which is tasked with investigating potential criminal violations of campaign finance laws. 

Fischer said his organization won't rule out doing so if it identifies evidence that the Trump campaign "knowingly and willfully" violated such laws — the general threshold for pursuing campaign finance matters criminally.

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