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campaign finance
September 19, 2018

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court allowed a lower-court ruling to take effect that will require nonprofit advocacy groups to disclose the names of political donors at least through the 2018 midterm elections, handing a win to campaign finance reformers and a loss to Crossroads GPS and other nonprofits that specialize in using secret "dark money" donations to influence political campaigns.

Last month, Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in Washington, D.C., had sided with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) against Crossroads GPS, an influential conservative group, and threw out a decades-old Federal Elections Commission (FEC) rule shielding donors to political nonprofits. With the Supreme Court denying Crossroads GPS's request for a stay, "we're about to know a lot more about who is funding our elections," said CREW executive director Noah Bookbinder.

"With less than 50 days before this fall's congressional elections, the ruling has far-reaching consequences that could curtail the ability of major political players to raise money and force the disclosure of some of the country's wealthiest donors," The Washington Post reports. "The change could affect heavyweight groups across the political spectrum, including the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity on the right and the League of Conservation Voters on the left." Conservatives were the ones complaining on Tuesday, characterizing Howell's ruling as an ill-timed incursion on free speech.

Starting Wednesday, the nonprofit advocacy groups will have to release the names of donors who contribute more than $200 annually for the purpose of influencing a federal election. Crossroads GPS will likely appeal the ruling, and the FEC will write a new rule for nonprofits, but neither of those will be in effect before the 2018 elections. The Supreme Court said Chief Justice John Roberts had referred the request for a stay to the court, which is divided 4-4 along ideological lines. The statement did not elaborate. You can read more at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

April 17, 2018

President Trump's "loyal lieutenant" is apparently getting some loyalty in return from his longtime employer.

The legal team representing Trump's former bodyguard, Keith Schiller, has received more than $66,000 from the Trump campaign, NBC News reported Tuesday. Schiller, who was Trump's bodyguard until he left the White House last year, was one of the president's longtime fixers. Hired in 1999, Schiller allegedly helped facilitate Trump's rumored extramarital affairs, made McDonald's runs, and protected Trump from unwanted conversations, The Daily Beast reports.

But newly filed campaign records, reported by NBC News, show that Trump is willing to go to bat for Schiller, too. The Trump campaign shelled out to the law firm that represents Schiller in January — for reasons that Schiller's legal representation declined to explain.

Campaign finance laws dictate that campaign money can only go toward legal fees if the legal matter pertains to the campaign, experts told NBC News. Such funds cannot be used for personal legal expenses.

Schiller reportedly told the House Intelligence Committee that he turned down an offer to send five women to Trump's hotel room while Schiller and Trump were in Moscow in 2013. NBC News reports that he likely told the same story to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the investigation into the Trump campaign's potential involvement with Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Investigators may have asked Schiller about more recent events that are tied to the campaign too, experts said.

The Trump campaign has put 20 percent of its total spending towards legal fees in 2018, records show. Around $348,000 has gone towards the law firm representing the Trump campaign in the special counsel investigation. Another $288,000 has gone to a firm representing Donald Trump Jr. Read more at NBC News. Summer Meza

April 15, 2017

President Trump's presidency has yet to hit the 100-day mark, but Federal Election Commission reports released Friday night indicated his re-election campaign fundraising is already in full swing.

The president and the Republican National Committee together raised $42.6 million toward the 2020 race in the first quarter of 2017, substantially from small donors giving $200 or less. During a comparable period in 2009, then-President Obama and the Democratic National Committee raised just $15.8 million.

The president's fundraising is going gangbusters significantly because he has not stopped campaigning since taking office, sending a steady barrage of email solicitations hawking branded merchandise and surveys soliciting supporters' input.

Politico reports that three Trump re-election committees, which together raised $13.2 million in the first quarter — Donald J. Trump for President, Trump Victory, and Trump Make America Great Again Committee — spent nearly half a million at Trump companies, "including $274,000 in rent for the Trump Tower office space and $61,000 at Trump golf clubs." Meanwhile, firms owned by White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and social media director Dan Scavino Jr. were paid $28,000 and $14,500, respectively. Bonnie Kristian

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