DOJ & FEC Complaints Filed Against President Trump, His Campaign & American Media Inc. for Illegal, Unreported $150K Coordinated Expenditure to Former Playboy Playmate

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  • David Vance

Today, Common Cause filed complaints with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging reason to believe that American Media, Inc.’s August 2016 payment of $150,000 to former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal, to buy and bury her story of an affair with Donald J. Trump, was for the purpose of influencing the 2016 election and was coordinated with Donald Trump’s attorney and agent Michael Cohen—making it an illegal corporate in-kind contribution to the 2016 Trump campaign. Additionally, the payment was never reported as an in-kind contribution received, and an expenditure made, by the campaign as required by campaign finance law.

The New York Times broke the story Sunday of American Media, Inc. (AMI) contacting Cohen in 2016 before the company paid McDougal for exclusive rights to her story of an affair with Donald Trump, which the paper then killed reportedly to protect Trump’s candidacy. Cohen was also in contact with McDougal’s attorney, Keith Davidson, who filled him in on the details after the deal was signed. Davidson also represented adult film star Stephanie Clifford (aka “Stormy Daniels”), to whom Cohen has admitted facilitating payment of $130,000 reportedly in hush money shortly before the 2016 election to quash her story of an affair with Trump.

“Transparency and the rule of law are vital to the health of our democracy and that is precisely why this case, like the Stormy Daniels hush money case, must be fully investigated. Americans have a right to know who is spending money to influence the election of the President of the United States,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. “These payoffs to quash embarrassing stories about Trump, in apparent violation of campaign finance law, appear to be part of a disturbing pattern by Trump’s attorneys and others in the campaign and in the administration of playing fast and loose with the laws passed by Congress. No American is above the law—including the president.”

“All indications are that AMI made the payment to MacDougal in consultation with Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer and ‘fix-it’ man, which makes AMI’s payment a ‘coordinated expenditure’ and in-kind corporate contribution to the Trump campaign ,” said Paul S. Ryan, Common Cause vice president for policy and litigation. “Off-the-books hush money payments may be common in New York gossip tabloid circles, but when those payments are for the purpose of influencing a presidential campaign, corporate money is off limits and the law requires disclosure. The payment had nothing to do with journalism—and thus cannot qualify for any sort of ‘press’ exemption. This payment was made to buy the silence of Karen MacDougal.”

To read the DOJ complaint, click here.  

To read the FEC complaint, click here.