- Aug 22, 2009
Shell companies and ‘dark money’ may hide details of Trump ties to DC protests
Former President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign aides played key roles orchestrating a rally protesting certification of President-elect Joe Biden‘s victory in the 2020 presidential election before hundreds of rioters breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
But the full extent of the Trump campaign’s ties to the protests may not be not fully known due to its use of shell companies that hide details of its financial dealings and the central role “dark money” played in the protests.
Multiple individuals listed on the permit granted by the National Park Service worked for Trump’s presidential campaign, as first reported by the Associated Press over the weekend. That raises new questions about the Trump campaign’s lack of spending transparency and the unknown extent of the event’s ties to Trump aides.
Trump’s campaign disclosed paying more than $2.7 million to the individuals and firms behind the Jan. 6 rally. But FEC disclosures do not necessarily provide a complete picture of the campaign’s financial dealings since so much of its spending was routed through shell companies, making it difficult to know who the campaign paid and when.
[SNIP] (More at source)
“The Trump campaign’s FEC reports really only provide a snapshot of who was paid by the campaign,” Brendan Fischer, the director of federal reform at the Campaign Legal Center, told OpenSecrets. “Using FEC reports to identify Trump campaign aides involved in the January 6 riot has its limits, because we don’t fully know who the campaign was paying.”
Federal campaign finance law requires political groups to disclose spending to the FEC but imposes few restrictions on merely disclosing payments to opaque firms or shell companies that channel money to ultimate vendors whose identities remain hidden.
Following OpenSecrets investigations into the Trump campaign’s use of shell companies, the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center filed a July 2020 FEC complaint asserting that the Trump campaign and its joint fundraising committee may have violated federal election reporting rules by “laundering the funds through firms” concealing details of the campaign’s financial dealings.
Trump’s implicit endorsement of this opaque practice could have repercussions beyond his 2020 campaign as other groups across the political spectrum begin to deploy similar tactics with increased frequency.
On Dec. 23, Trump pardoned former Ron Paul campaign aides John Tate and Jesse Benton for charges tied to hiding bribes in a 2012 scandal by paying a vendor who then paid a subvendor — one of few cases showing consequences for violating the FEC’s ultimate vendor disclosure rules.
Trump’s pardons may be “intended to send clear messages,” excusing alleged crimes and corruption so long as the purported perpetrator remains loyal to Trump, according to reporting by multiple media outlets. If that is indeed the case, Trump’s John Tate and Jesse Benton pardons seem to send a very specific message effectively excusing alleged wrongdoing in one of the few high-profile cases where enforcement of the FEC’s ultimate vendor rules resulted in significant consequences.
Dark money groups that hide their funders and disclose minimal other information at best played a major role in organizing the rally, further obscuring detail of its financing and ties to operatives in Trump’s orbit.
Women for America First submitted the permit to the National Park Services and other 501(c)(4) nonprofits from Turning Point Action to the Rule of Law Defense Fund also helped organize and promote the rally. Since these groups only report minimal information about their financial dealings, information on who they pay and who provides their funding remains hidden.
The Trump campaign did not respond to request for comment prior to publication.
Details of Trump's ties to a rally before rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol amid DC protests remain hidden due to the role of shell companies.