Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, and the Democratic National Committee, are accused of violating federal law. A complaint made to the Federal Election Committee (FEC) by The Campaign Legal Center (CLC), a Washington, DC-based election law non-profit, charges that the DNC and Hillary for America “failed to accurately disclose the purpose and recipient of payments for the dossier of research alleging connections between then-candidate Donald Trump and Russia, effectively hiding these payments from public scrutiny.”
In question is a dossier that was produced by the Fusion GPS opposition research firm in cooperation with a former British intelligence agent that made scurrilous, uncorroborated charges against Trump and his political organization, while seeking to tie him to Russian economic and political interests. The dossier was first made public by Buzzfeed, but it had circulated before within the FBI and the Department of Justice. In January, then-President Barack Obama and President-elect Trump were given copies.
The complaint alleges:
“[T]he DNC and Hillary for America reported dozens of payments totaling millions of dollars to the law firm Perkins Coie with the purpose described as ‘Legal Services’” or ‘Legal Compliance Consulting,’ when in reality, those payments were earmarked for the firm Fusion GPS, with the purpose of conducting opposition research on Donald Trump.”
CLC cited FEC policy that section of the campaign disclosure forms concerning the “purpose of disbursement,” “must be sufficiently specific to make the purpose of the disbursement clear.” CLC thus argues that the DNC and the campaign organization violated federal election laws.
CLC is a non-partisan organization that has accepted donations in the past from activist billionaire George Soros. Its website notes that it was founded partly in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” ruling. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was a landmark case in which the high court ruled that the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech prohibits the government from restricting independent political expenditures by nonprofit corporations, for-profit corporations, labor unions, and other associations. In his 2010 State of the Union address, Barack Obama chastised the court for the decision. Democrats have thereafter criticised the Supreme Court and Republicans for the ruling.
CLC was in the news in 2010 and 2011 after it called on the IRS and Lois Lerner of that agency to investigate so-called Tea Party groups. Most recently, it filed an IRS complaint against Judge Roy Moore, a conservative Republican senatorial candidate in Alabama.
Media outlets have charged that Marc Elias -- an attorney with the Perkins Coie -- has repeatedly misled reporters seeking to know more about the “Trump” dossier and denying the involvement of the DNC and the Clinton campaign. The Washington Post and other outlets have confirmed that long-standing rumors about the origin of the dossier are accurate. The revelation has challenged the repeated narrative of supposed wrongdoing and collusion on the part of the Trump organization and associates with Russian interests. It is now the Democrats, rather than Republicans, who are seeking to respond to such charges.