Common Cause filed new complaints today against President Trump, his 2016 campaign organization, and the publisher of the National Enquirer, seeking investigations of whether a $30,000 payment by the publishing company to a Trump Tower bellman in 2015 was an illegal campaign contribution.
The payment from American Media Inc. to Dino Sajudin ostensibly was made to secure exclusive rights to his account of an alleged affair between Trump and another Trump employee in the 1980s. The employee allegedly bore a child by the future president but neither the Enquirer nor any other American Media outlet published a story on the affair.
The Common Cause complaints, directed to the Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission, suggest that in fact the Sajudin payment was made to “catch and kill” the story and ensure that it did not embarrass Trump or imperil his campaign. If that proves true, the payment must be treated as an in-kind campaign contribution, the complaints charge, and the Trump camp broke the law by accepting it and then failing to disclose it.
Federal law bans corporate donations to political candidates and parties and puts a $2.700 per campaign on donations from individuals.
“These payments may well just be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to violations of campaign finance laws by agents of Donald Trump to bury embarrassing stories during the presidential race…” said Paul S. Ryan, Common Cause’s vice president for policy and litigation.
“Secret payments to hide affairs may have been commonplace in the president’s previous life as a tabloid figure, but when he became a candidate for the presidency, any new payments to safeguard his candidacy became violations of federal law,” Ryan added.
The payment to Sajudin was made a few weeks before the opening of the 2016 primary season, which saw Trump emerge from a crowded field of more-experienced candidates to claim the Republican presidential nomination.
“We have laws to ensure disclosure of who is funding presidential campaigns to protect the integrity of our democratic process,” said Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn. “The president and his team seem to have repeatedly chosen to ignore campaign finance laws in an attempt to bury scandals related to the then-candidate’s extramarital affairs. We are encouraged that the DOJ is vigorously investigating the allegations outlined in Common Cause’s complaints related to earlier reports of hush money payments on behalf of Donald Trump and his campaign.”
Common Cause has filed similar complaints concerning a payment by Trump lawyer Michael Cohen to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and one by American Media to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy magazine Playmate; both women say they had affairs with Trump and accepted six-figure checks to buy their silence. The McDougal payment reportedly also was a “catch and kill” arrangement.
The Daniels and McDougal payments reportedly figure in a raid and searches by FBI agents on Monday at Cohen’s New York home and office, as well as a hotel room in which the lawyer was staying while his house was under repair. Trump has blasted the court-approved search as a violation of laws that protect the confidentiality of attorney-client communications and has hinted he may fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who authorized prosecutors in New York to seek a warrant permitting the searches.
Evidence of the payment apparently was referred to Rosenstein by investigators working with Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading an investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign’s possible involvement in it. Part of Mueller’s probe apparently touches on whether Trump has attempted to obstruct the investigation, which the president regularly refers to as a “witch hunt.”
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Money in Politics