Fox News: Michael Cohen and Trump did NOT violate campaign finance law – despite Cohen’s guilty plea (In the News)

Fox News: Michael Cohen and Trump did NOT violate campaign finance law – despite Cohen’s guilty plea

By Hans A. von Spakovsky

[Y]ou have to wonder about the legal advice Cohen received when he pleaded guilty on the same day to two violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act – the law that governs the financing of federal elections campaigns. Many election law experts, including former commissioners on the Federal Election Commission (FEC), say his conduct, however sleazy, didn’t violate the law.

I’m one of those former commissioners and I’m also a former Justice Department attorney…

Here’s how the Federal Election Campaign Act works: For the rules, contribution limits, and reporting requirements of law to apply to an expenditure, it has to be made “for the purpose of influencing” a federal election. But such a broad definition could cover anything on which a candidate spends money.

As former FEC Chairman Bradley Smith says, that could include “buying a good watch to make sure he gets to places on time, to getting a massage so that he feels fit for the campaign trail, to buying a new suit so that he looks good on a debate stage.”

So the campaign finance law specifies that such personal expenses are not considered campaign-related expenses even though they might “influence” the election outcome…

It is illegal under the Federal Election Campaign Act to use campaign funds to pay the personal expenses of a candidate. As former FEC chairman Smith points out, if Trump had used campaign funds to pay off Daniels and McDougal, does anyone doubt that “the same people now after Trump for using corporate funds, and not reporting them as campaign expenditures, would then be claiming that Trump had illegally diverted campaign funds to ‘personal use’?” …

Smith says that “at the very least, the law is murky about whether paying hush money to a mistress is a ‘campaign expense’ or a personal expense.”            

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.