Tracking money and contributions in the wake of Citizens United is difficult, especially given the Super PAC swampland, but as long as we’re speculating about what could be driving the Republican opposition to the Mueller investigation, and associated assaults on the CIA and FBI, let’s add violations of campaign finance laws.
“The Federal Election Campaign Act states in unambiguous terms that any contribution by a foreign national to the campaign of an American candidate for any election, state or national, is illegal. Likewise, anyone who receives, solicits, or accepts these contributions also violates the statute. Foreign national, in this case, means anybody not a US citizen that doesn’t have a green card.” [UKedu]
Indeed, 52 US Code 30121 is rather specific:
(a) Prohibition It shall be unlawful for—
(1) a foreign national, directly or indirectly, to make—
(A) a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State, or local election;
(B) a contribution or donation to a committee of a political party; or
(C) an expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication (within the meaning of section 30104(f)(3) of this title); or
(2) a person to solicit, accept, or receive a contribution or donation described in subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (1) from a foreign national.
Again, the caveat, I’m no counselor, solicitor, lawyer, attorney, or any other synonym for a legal eagle, but it seems to me that a campaign cannot accept or solicit a “donation of money or anything of value” from a foreign national. And, now we come to the filtration system.
For example, there are questions about NRA donations during the 2016 election season. On February 2, 2018 it was reported that Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) requested documents from the Treasury Department and the NRA concerning possible (or alleged) contributions from Russians to the National Rifle Association. [APN] The same day, PBS posted:
“News reports last month said the FBI is investigating contact between Alexander Torshin, who is the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank and a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, and the NRA. Wyden is ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, as well as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting a probe into Russia election meddling.”
It would be highly irregular, if not downright illegal under 52 US Code 30121, to have money funneled from the Russian central bank to the NRA for the benefit of Republican candidates, including the campaign for the presidency. The major reporting on this element of ongoing investigations came from McClatchy DC:
“Disclosure of the Torshin investigation signals a new dimension in the 18-month-old FBI probe of Russia’s interference. McClatchy reported a year ago that a multi-agency U.S. law enforcement and counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s intervention, begun even before the start of the 2016 general election campaign, initially included a focus on whether the Kremlin secretly helped fund efforts to boost Trump, but little has been said about that possibility in recent months.
The extent to which the FBI has evidence of money flowing from Torshin to the NRA, or of the NRA’s participation in the transfer of funds, could not be learned.”
Once more the reticence (and rectitude) of the Mueller investigation precludes the unauthorized release of information regarding ongoing probes. However, we do know that Mr. Torshin’s contributions, whatever they might be, are of interest to investigators. Nor do we know if there are other contributions or “in kind” donations from other sources under scrutiny. There may, or may not, be revelations coming from final reports from the Special Counsel.
Another example, … that infamous Trump Tower meeting on June 9, 2016. Of all the possible violations of campaign finance rules this has been the most visible, in no small part because of the misleading (perhaps obstructionist) statement drafted and released by the administration concerning the principals in the meeting and its purpose. And, no it wasn’t about ‘Russian Orphans’ unless of course one is speaking of the Russian retaliation for the Magnitsky Act. One theory holds that opposition research is a valuable commodity, one of those “other things of value” under the terms of 52 US Code 20121, therefore if the Trump Campaign accepted purloined e-mails or the fruits of other opposition research against the Clinton Campaign from the Russians, then it has accepted unlawful contributions for foreign nationals.
The story ‘broke’ on July 8, 2017 in the New York Times, and has continued to inform the public discussion, even if the Mueller probe has possibly long finished with this component. CNN provides a handy timeline on the subject.
Once more, I think it’s important to note that we do not know what the Mueller investigation is placing under its microscope, these two publicized examples may be the only elements of campaign finance law violations about which questions have been raised, or there may be other shoes dropping. Patience is required as the investigation continues toward its conclusion.
What we do know is that the administration is expending a significant amount of time and energy (not to mention political capital) trying to tamp down discussion of these possible violations, and questioning the motives underpinning the investigations. Frankly speaking, if there’s “no there there” (Thank You Gertrude Stein for this enduring phrase for all occasions) then the question becomes WHY all this exertion?
And yes, come for the Obstruction of Justice, and stay for the possible violations of US campaign finance laws.