Campaign violations were first alleged in Common Cause complaints
In reaction to Republican commissioners on the Federal Election Commission (FEC) blocking the enforcement of clear campaign finance violations by former President Trump first raised in Common Cause complaints, Paul S. Ryan, Common Cause’s Vice President for Policy & Litigation, issued the following statement:
Crystal Mason, a Black woman, was sentenced to five years in prison for inadvertently violating an election law in 2016. She thought she was allowed to vote and filled out a provisional ballot that was never counted. Donald Trump blatantly and intentionally violated federal campaign finance laws on his way to winning the 2016 presidential election. But former Attorney General Bill Barr—and now Republican FEC Commissioners Sean Cooksey and Trey Trainor—have blocked investigation and enforcement of Trump’s violations.
Now it’s up to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to hold Trump accountable and make clear that no one is above the law. The clock is ticking; a five–year statute of limitations for Trump’s campaign finance crimes gives the DOJ only 5 more months to prosecute these crimes.
In 2018 Common Cause filed complaints with the FEC and DOJ detailing multiple violations of federal campaign finance laws committed by Donald J. Trump, the Trump Organization, Michael Cohen and others through their $130,000 “hush” payment to Stormy Daniels just weeks before the November 2016 presidential election. Cohen pleaded guilty to these crimes and was sentenced to three years in prison. Cohen testified under oath that he had acted at the direction of Trump.
The FEC’s nonpartisan career staff attorneys recommended that the Commission find reason to believe that Trump, his campaign committee, and the Trump Organization committed the violations alleged in Common Cause’s complaints. Democratic Chair Shana Broussard and Commissioner Ellen Weintraub voted in support of the staff attorneys’ recommendations to continue the enforcement action. But continued pursuit of the matter required at least four votes. Republican Commissioners Cooksey and Trainor overrode the career attorneys and Democratic Commissioners and killed the investigation.
Today’s announcement that the FEC will not be holding Trump accountable for his campaign finance violations is just the latest display of dysfunction at the FEC. The Senate must pass the For the People Act, which includes provisions to significantly restructure the agency so it can do its job for the American people and enforce the law, in addition to including many tried and tested solutions to hold power accountable and make democracy work for everyone.