Is Paying For Silence A Real Campaign Finance Violation?
I have to admit I'm confused about the "hush money payoff as campaign contribution violation" thing. I don't believe it's as clear cut as the Democrats charge and I'm not so sure it's as squeaky clean as many Republicans attest.
In the Patriot Post Ann Coulter writes, "Words like “hush money” and “porn star” make the payments sound unsavory — but there’s nothing criminal about paying money to suppress embarrassing information, even in the middle of a political campaign. If it wasn’t illegal for Cohen to pay the hush money, it’s certainly not illegal for Trump to reimburse him for it. Cohen was, after all, Trump’s lawyer. He got reimbursed for a lot of things."
Once a fan, Coulter is now a pretty severe critic of the President but she see the "payment problem" as wishful thinking by the Democrats. "If you’re running for office, all normal life expenses suddenly become campaign-related. According to these neurotics, ANY money Trump or his companies spent during the campaign is a potential campaign finance expenditure. Paying your gardeners is a campaign expense — because who would vote for a man who can’t even keep the hedges tidy at Mar-a-Lago? Luckily our laws aren’t as insane as our media.
USA Today says that Presidential lawyer Michael Cohen was "charged with violating the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA)...which limits donations by individuals to $2,700 per election. It also bans corporations from making any contributions to candidates. Because Cohen admitted that the payments were to protect Trump's election chances, they are deemed to be in-kind contributions to the Trump campaign. They exceed the donation limits, a violation, and neither was included in campaign finance reports, another violation...and Cohen admitted that he violated these laws "knowingly and willfully."
That's the path Cohen says we all should follow.
Marking the other path is the sign that reads FECA (52 U.S.C. 30114 (b)(2)) which specifically says that campaign-related expenses do not include any expenditures “used to fulfill any commitment, obligation, or expense of a person that would exist irrespective of the candidate’s election campaign.”
So do you think Trump would or has paid people in other circumstances to be quiet and go away if that was the most expedient way for him to solve a problem? (Me = YES) So if you do, then this is business as usual and not a campaign finance violation.
NBC news puts it this way, "The threshold legal question is whether the payments were made to keep Trump’s marriage together (for personal reasons) or to keep the campaign together (for political reasons). Payments made “for the purpose of influencing” a federal election are covered by federal campaign finance law. Payments made for personal reasons are not."
So who do you believe, convicted liar Michael Cohen or the President who has his own unique challenges with accuracy and the truth?
NBC adds, "According to Cohen, both of these payments were made to influence the election; he told us so in open court. But we don’t even have to believe Cohen. There is plenty of other evidence to suggest that these payments were made to keep Trump’s political aspirations alive. For one thing, Cohen made the payment to Stormy Daniels mere weeks before the election. Trump’s current personal attorney, Rudy Guilianni, made the implications of this payment and its timing clear on national television. “Imagine if that [the allegation] came out on Oct. 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton,” he told “Fox & Friends” in May."
Let's face it, Rudy hasn't been that much help.
But the truth is, while the timing "looks suspicious", the payoff problem appears to go back in time to before Trump was a candidate. Politifact writes, "Cohen may have been sufficiently involved in Trump’s personal dealings, perhaps with other similar transactions in the past, that they can credibly argue the hush payment would’ve been handled in similar fashion even if Trump were not a candidate,"Emory School of Law professor Michael Kang, said. Former FEC chair Bradley Smith told us ...Daniels herself has said that years before Trump declared for president, she was threatened about not disclosing any affair, suggesting, if she's telling the truth, that her silence was desired long before Trump became a candidate."
If true, then Trump's payments are personal and he is off the hook....on this allegation.
So, outside of a determination in a courtroom, it seems to shape up like a "he said, she said, the other he said, they said, the other side said & hopes & scheme & dreams," kinda situation.
And so again, who do you believe?