Voting rights groups are alleging Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign committee is violating black-letter federal law by sending campaign fundraising emails to foreign nationals—including foreign politicians—in at least Iceland, Scotland, Australia and Britain.
The Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 announced it will file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission highlighting this violation and demanding the agency send a clear message that foreign money is not allowed in U.S. elections.
“Donald Trump should have known better,” said Paul S. Ryan, CLC deputy executive director. “It is a no-brainer that it violates the law to send fundraising emails to members of a foreign government on their official foreign government email accounts, and yet, that’s exactly what Trump has done repeatedly. The FEC’s forum last week highlighted how foreign corporate money could infiltrate U.S. elections, but Trump’s fundraising antics show that the FEC must also monitor candidates directly soliciting foreign money.
“If the FEC fails to take action on our complaint, it could send a message that Trump and other candidates have the greenlight to fundraise overseas,” Ryan added.
“This is a strange and unique development that we have not seen before in campaign fundraising,” said Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer. “The FEC needs to investigate how many of these illegal solicitations were sent, to whom they were sent, whether any illegal foreign contributions have been received and, if so, whether the contributions have been returned.”
Our complaint details how in June 2016, dozens of prominent Icelandic, Scottish, Australian and British politicians received Trump fundraising emails on their official government email accounts, which end in “.is” or “.uk” and clearly indicate that the email recipient lives in Iceland or the United Kingdom. Trump continued to send the fundraising emails even after foreign press began raising questions about the solicitations.
For example, just last week, while Trump was promoting his golf resort in Scotland, Scottish members of parliament received emails urging them to ‘make America great again’ by donating to his campaign.”
“Emailing fundraising requests to foreign addresses should have been a big red flag for the Trump campaign,” said Brendan Fischer, associate counsel for CLC, “but the campaign apparently didn’t conduct the minimal diligence the law requires to avoid running afoul of the foreign solicitation ban.”
Federal law provides that a candidate violates the foreign national fundraising ban if they make a solicitation despite being aware of facts that would lead a reasonable person “to inquire whether the source of the funds solicited is a “foreign national” or “to conclude that there is a substantial probability that the source of the funds solicited “is a foreign national.”