MEMO: Potential Trump Campaign Violations Related to Manafort Communications with Kilimnik
According to a new court filing, former 2016 Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort shared presidential campaign polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian citizen with ties to Russian intelligence. Manafort reportedly had been in close contact with Kilimnik throughout the 2016 campaign and met with him in May and August 2016. The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that the Russian government conducted an influence campaign in the U.S. 2016 presidential election, including through “overt propaganda.”
If Manafort did in fact share campaign data with Kilimnik, and Kilimnik together with any other Russians used that data to guide Russian political expenditures in support of the 2016 Trump campaign, then the Trump campaign likely violated U.S. campaign finance laws through its receipt of an in-kind contribution from a foreign national in the form of “coordinated” political expenditures.
U.S. campaign finance law has for decades provided that any expenditure “made by any person in cooperation, consultation, or concert, with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate, his authorized political committees, or their agents” is considered a contribution to such candidate. 52 U.S.C. § 30116(a)(7)(B)(i).
U.S. law further provides that a political communication is “coordinated” with a candidate campaign committee when the communication:
The communication Is paid for, in whole or in part, by a person other than that candidate committee;
The communication contains specified content, including reference to a clearly identified Presidential candidate during the period of time beginning 120 days before the candidate’s primary up to and including the day of the general election; and
The candidate’s campaign committee requested or suggested the communication be created, produced or distributed; or
The candidate’s campaign committee was materially involved in decisions regarding the content of the communication, the intended audience of the communication or the timing of the communication.
11 C.F.R. § 109.21.
U.S. law prohibits foreign nationals from directly or indirectly making contributions to U.S. candidate campaigns, and likewise prohibits candidate campaigns from soliciting or receiving contributions from a foreign national. 52 U.S.C. § 30121.
Finally, U.S. law requires a federal candidate campaign committee to report to the Federal Election Commission the identification of each person that makes a contribution to the committee with an aggregate value in excess of $200 within an election cycle. 52 U.S.C. § 30104(b)(3)(A). A candidate campaign committee must also report expenditures coordinated with that candidate as the candidate’s own expenditures. 11 C.F.R. § 109.20(b).
In summary, the information revealed in Paul Manafort’s court filing may show that the 2016 Trump campaign violated federal campaign finance laws prohibiting candidates from receiving in-kind contributions from foreign nationals in the form of “coordinated expenditures” and requiring candidates to report all of their contributions and expenditures.