A supporter of Texas congressman Ron Paul has filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) against possible Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, reports the Daily Beast’s Paul Alexander.
Shawn Michael Thompson, a campaign aide during Paul’s 2008 run for the presidency, filed the complaint in Florida on Friday. It accuses Trump of exploring a presidential campaign without filing the necessary paperwork. “Donald Trump is by his own admission testing the waters for election to the presidency,” states the complaint, “and he is…a de facto candidate for the Republican nomination. He has not filed or registered with the Commission any exploratory committee [commonly called a Testing the Waters committee] or principal campaign committee, or statement of candidacy on FEC Form 1—or any other filing whatsoever with the FEC. A testing the waters committee requires adherence to contribution and limits and prohibits corporate contributions.”
Trump has not filed papers with the FEC to establish a presidential exploratory committee and is privately funding an effort to gauge support for a possible candidacy. According to federal law, Trump can only spend $2,500 of his own money to explore a presidential bid without filing with the FEC. Last week, his spokesman Michael Cohen traveled to Iowa to meet with local Republicans which was believed to have cost at least $125,000. Cohen says that Trump supporter Stewart Rahr paid for the trip, which if true may be a violation of federal law. “A contribution in excess of $2,500 to any candidate for federal office or to a ‘testing the waters’ committee is a violation on the part of the donor and of the recipient,” the complaint states. “Because Trump is in fact a candidate, this expenditure by Rahr was a violation.”
The complaint goes on to accuse Cohen of providing “free legal services” to Trump that constitutes an “in-kind contribution” to his campaign. “Cohen is a lawyer and as such he has provided legal advice to Trump [and] as such is in violation…Because his salary is paid by The [Trump] Organization…the Organization is making an unreported (and thus illegal) contribution to Trump’s candidacy,” the complaint continues. “It is simply not plausible that Cohen provides services after-hours and without use of his office and telephone at the Trump Organization.” It also takes issue with Cohen’s draft Trump website, which is itself a violation of federal law according to the complaint.
Two separate “grassroots” efforts to draft Trump have been launched in recent months, one headed by Cohen, the other by Iraq War vet Nick McLaughlin and veteran political operative Lynn Krogh. Alexander speculates Trump may be hesitant to file with the FEC because “he does not want to reveal that he is financing what he hopes is viewed as a spontaneous grassroots effort to convince him to run for president.”
If the FEC finds Trump in violation of campaign laws he could be fined several hundred thousand dollars. Although that would only amount to a slap on the wrist of the billionaire celebrity businessman, it could embarrass an effort already struggling to be taken seriously.