Did Trump’s campaign violate federal law with its campaign solicitations?

22 August 2016   
Did Trump’s campaign violate federal law with its campaign solicitations?

Conservative pundits have long criticized the Clinton Foundation for accepting donations from foreign governments while Hillary served as Secretary of State. While it was not technically illegal, the Clinton Foundation’s willingness to accept massive contributions from nations with complex, often controversial, ties to the United States and its foreign interests, including Algeria, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and others, suggests a degree of corruption within the State Department under her watch. Of course, this makes perfect sense: foreign countries want the U.S. to help them out in any way possible, and so they pour money into the charity run by one of the nation’s leading diplomats.

Among those who have criticized Hillary for such donations is Donald Trump. "Crooked Hillary says we must call on Saudi Arabia and other countries to stop funding hate," Trump wrote back in June. "I am calling on her to immediately return the $25 million plus she got from them for the Clinton Foundation!" While Clinton’s foreign donations evoked this level of harsh scrutiny, they were not illegal. On the other hand, Trump is now finding himself buried in a similar scandal. The difference, however, is that his foreign donation solicitations are in clear violation of federal statutes. For the second time since June, the Trump campaign is under scrutiny for soliciting donations from foreign nationals in Scotland, Iceland, Australia, and elsewhere.

The American Democracy Legal Fund and two other organizations filed a complaint with the FEC against Trump earlier this summer with claims that he was sending fundraising communications to officials in foreign governments. Rather than stopping the practice, the campaign continued to do so through July, and thus the ADLF has filed another complaint against the campaign. The federal law states as follows:

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.

According to CSMonitor, “Parliament members in the UK and Australia both confirmed they had received fundraising emails as recently as July 12.” Some foreign representatives even received emails claiming that, if they donated to the Trump campaign, they could win a trip to the Republican National Convention. Now, given the statute listed above, it is clear that the Trump campaign is breaking the law with these fundraising solicitations.

Larry Noble, the general counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, said that "if the Trump campaign has continued to solicit foreign nationals after the matter first came to light in June, this looks like either gross incompetence, gross negligence or willful conduct.” It is still unclear as to which of the possibilities this activity falls under, but it is certainly clear that the Trump campaign is in some hot water for this one.

What do you think about this controversy? Will this affect the Trump campaign?