The money allegedly paid to adult film star “Stormy Daniels” to buy her silence about her past sexual relationship with President Trump may constitute an illegal contribution to the president’s 2016 campaign, Common Cause charges in complaints filed today with the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Justice.
The complaints ask the agencies to investigate whether the $130,000 allegedly funneled to Daniels by Trump attorney Michael Cohen was paid to protect the Trump campaign from negative publicity that would flow from her account of her encounter with Trump. If so, the money would be an illegal campaign contribution, the complaints allege.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Cohen set up a limited liability corporation, Essential Consultants LLC, to hide the transfer of funds to a trust account maintained by Daniels’s lawyer. The payment was made several weeks before the 2016 election, as the Trump campaign was being rocked by reports of Trump’s treatment of women, including a tape recording in which he was heard boasting that his celebrity gave him the freedom to grab them by their genitals.
Before the alleged payments were made, Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, had given interviews detailing her relationship with Trump to at least two news organizations. She abruptly stopped talking to the journalists after the cash transfer.
The ultimate source of the money allegedly paid by Essential Consultants has not been disclosed. Whoever provided the cash, the Trump campaign’s failure to report receiving it as an in-kind contribution and then transferring it to Daniels would violate federal law, the complaints allege.
“The American people expect and deserve transparency when it comes to money spent to influence elections and those requirements are not optional no matter how embarrassing the reason behind the expense,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. “Candidates and their attorneys cannot choose how and when to comply with federal campaign finance laws.”
“These apparent violations are not simple bookkeeping errors, but seemingly a deliberate evasion of the laws on the books to ensure Americans get a full accounting of the money raised and spent by and for candidates for the presidency,” said Paul S. Ryan, Common Cause’s vice president for policy and litigation. “These actions are just the latest examples of the president, his family, his campaign, and subsequently administration, playing fast and loose with the laws that apply to them. If these laws are not fully enforced, they will be ignored by candidates and administrations going forward to the detriment of our democracy.”
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Money in Politics