by Andrew Kerr
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) announced Friday it dismissed a complaint from a liberal watchdog group alleging that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign had violated campaign laws by promoting his businesses and using campaign funds to pay for events at his Mar-A-Lago resort.
The complaint, which was filed nearly two years ago by David Brock’s American Democracy Legal Fund, alleged that Trump “used campaign press conferences to promote and market products that he owns or are associated with the Trump brand.”
But the FEC’s general counsel found that Trump’s promotion of his businesses during the campaign “were made in the context of touting his business acumen, and therefore his suitability and qualifications for office, which was an issue often raised during the campaign.”
Three of the FEC’s four commissioners agreed with the general counsel’s recommendations. The lone dissenter, Democrat Ellen Weintraub, said it was just another “frustrating” example of the FEC’s failure to act.
— Ellen L. Weintraub (@EllenLWeintraub) June 15, 2018
In a statement Friday, Weintraub said the FEC should have opened a formal investigation into the complaint to ensure no laws were broken.
“Only then could the Commission assure the American public that no impermissible intermingling of campaign and business or personal interests occurred,” she said.
The complaint also alleged that the Trump campaign overpaid Mar-A-Lago for the three campaign events it held at the club in March 2016. Since Trump is the sole owner of Mar-A-Lago, any overpayment by the Trump campaign to the club would be money in Trump’s pocket.
But the FEC’s general counsel concluded that there was no reason to believe the Trump campaign overpaid its stay at Mar-A-Lago, citing the Palm Beach Police Foundation, which was charged a similar rate for their 2013 annual ball and auction held at the club.
Former FEC commissioner Brad Smith argued in June 2017 that Weintraub’s approach towards Trump casts “serious doubt on whether she can continue to credibly carry on her duties as a Commissioner.”
“If Commissioner Weintraub wishes to be an unserious, progressive martyr on the Commission, it is certainly within her rights to do so,” Smith wrote. “If she criticizes the President enough, she can spin to a ferociously anti-Trump press that any effort to replace her is an effort to silence the hunt for truth. The problem is that there is actual work to do at the FEC.”
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