Thursday, October 26, 2017
Hillary Clinton's Campaign Funding of Dossier Raises Possibility of Campaign Law Violations
The news broke yesterday that the infamous Steele Dossier was funded by the Hillary Clinton for President campaign. This was after the dossier was originally funded by Republicans wanting to ammunition against Donald Trump.
It should be no surprise whatsoever that the dossier was funded as a result of opposition research funded by Trump opponents. Anyone who works in politics knows that virtually all negative information about candidates comes to light via opposition research. But what caused the Hillary funding revelation to be a much bigger issue than it otherwise would have been is that the attorney for
President Trump immediately trumpeted the latest Hillary news as confirmation of his claim that the dossier was a complete fabrication. Of course, that is utter nonsense. The revelation of the funding source for the dossier does not prove the facts contained therein to be false. In fact, a great deal of the information in the dossier have already been confirmed. North Carolina Republican Senator Richard Burr, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee has confirmed as such as well as independent reporting on the subject. Investigators from Burr's committee are meeting with former British Intelligence Office Christopher Steele who assembled the information in the dossier. Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has already met with Steele.
But the revelation of the funding source points to possible legal jeopardy by the Hillary Clinton campaign, in particular a campaign finance violation for reporting expenditures of a campaign in such a way as to shield the recipient and nature of dossier funding.
Concealing contributions and expenditures is an increasing problem with Indiana political campaigns. Years ago, I wrote about red flags I saw when I reviewed the campaign finance report for the political action committee supporting the Wishard Hospital referendum. One would think there would have been hundreds of contributions. There were six. Three individuals gave the Wishard PAC $50 or less and one lobbyist gave $1,000. Then there were two 501(c)(3) non-profit corporations (which unlike other types of political campaigns, can give legally to referendum campaigns), that gave $1.5 million. All the doctors and other highly paid medical professionals who should have been interested in the issue did not appear to be giving at all to the cause. What may well have been going on is that those medical professionals and other interested parties were instead giving their money to the two non-profits who were then giving the money to the Wishard PAC. Using the non-profits as a conduit would have had the effect of laundering campaign contributions, i.e. turning non-deductible political contributions into deductible charitable donations. At least until the day the IRS figures out the scheme.
On the contribution side, more relevant to our discussion here, my recollection is that there were only a tiny handful of recipient of Wishard PAC expenditures. This included almost all of the money raised by the PAC going to a public relations firm. There was no documentation as far as how that money was spent...only that it was paid to a public relations firm. Thus, what was actually purchased with the Wishard contributions was effectively concealed by the practice.
Obviously the Clinton Campaign expenditures for the dossier was effectively concealed from the public by using an intermediary, apparently the campaign's law firm. Apparently, the money was paid from the campaign to the law firm and then the law firm turned around and paid Christopher Steele. Not only does that practice conceal the real purpose of the expenditure, the law firm can also make a claim (albeit bogus) of "attorney-client" privilege to provide additional protection from having the dossier funding exposed.
It is time for the Federal Elections Commission and state elections commissions to crack down on the use of intermediaries to conceal contributions and expenditures. A good place to start is holding responsible those in the Hillary Clinton campaign who were responsible for the concealment of the dossier funding.