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Allegations that Clinton campaign funded Trump-Russia research still pending at now-closed FEC

By John Breslin | Jan 16, 2019


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - A complaint that alleges Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee violated campaign finance law by steering money for opposition research through a law firm is still pending with the Federal Election Commission.

The FEC, which is not operating during the government shutdown, has yet to rule on the complaint made by Campaign Legal Center (CLC) that both organizations funneled the cash to Fusion GPS, the team behind a dossier compiled by Christopher Steele – the so-called "Steele dossier."

Steele is a former British security service operative who authored the report that included claims about President Trump's alleged links with Russia and allegations that the Kremlin may have incriminating evidence about the president's activities in Moscow.

The CLC filed a complaint with the FEC in October 2017, claiming the money to pay for the opposition research was routed through the law firm of Perkins Coie.

"They 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, contrary to the requirements of federal law," the CLC stated when the complaint was filed.

The group, which has investigated and filed complaints against both parties and political campaigns, confirmed to Legal Newsline that the FEC has not yet adjudicated.

“Opposition research can provide voters with information about the records and conduct of candidates in important areas that the candidates themselves would often rather not discuss," said Corey Goldstone, the center's media strategist.

"But to make sure that voters also have the financial information they need, federal law requires campaigns to file reports with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

"The Clinton campaign and the DNC did not comply with their legal obligation to disclose their payments to Fusion for opposition research. Instead, they concealed the fact that any payments were made to Fusion at all. The FEC should open an investigation and – if they find a violation of federal law – impose a fine to deter future violations.”

During the 2016 election cycle, Hillary for America reported $5,631,421 in payments to Perkins Coie. These were described as "Legal Services."

Further, the DNC reported paying Perkins Coie $6,466,711 for “Legal and Compliance Consulting."

In its complaint to the FEC, the CLC said the stated purpose of the payments to Perkins Coie did not reflect their actual purpose - hiring Fusion as a subcontractor. 

It continued, "Additionally, Hillary for America and the DNC did not have an arms-length relationship with Perkins Coie; the Chair of that firm’s political law practice, Marc Elias, was the Clinton campaign’s general counsel." 

The center cited a Washington Post report that stated Elias was acting on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC when he contracted with Fusion GPS for opposition research. This, if true, is a violation of campaign finance law, the center says.

Republicans in Wisconsin and nationwide attempted to highlight the fact that the state's new attorney general, Josh Kaul, was an employee with Perkins Coie prior to his election and that he represented the Clinton campaign in court hearings.

In one of a number of statements during the election campaign, the Republican Attorneys General Association also cited the Washington Post report and the payments made to the law firm by the Clinton campaign and the DNC when arguing against his election.

“Josh Kaul claims to be against partisan politics, but he works for Hillary Clinton’s political hatchet shop and has even represented Clinton in court. Wisconsinites can see right through these phony partisan games. Bottom line, Hillary Clinton’s lawyer should stop hiding and comment on his firm's role in the dossier," RAGA spokesman Zack Roday added.

Kaul did appear in a Madison courtroom on behalf of the Clinton campaign when there still were questions about whether a manual hand count of ballots would happen in Wisconsin.

Clinton “respectfully supports the issuance of an order requiring a manual recount of all ballots cast in the presidential election in Wisconsin,” Kaul wrote in a filing with the Dane County court. No manual recount took place.

Kaul is not mentioned in any complaints to the FEC related to the payments to those behind the Steele dossier.

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