U.S. Markets closed

Election watchdog charges Clinton campaign filed 'false' reports on Trump dossier funding

Michael Isikoff
Chief Investigative Correspondent
Hillary Clinton and Christopher Steele. with text from the Federal Election Commission complaint. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Matt Rourke/AP, Victoria Jones/PA via AP)

An independent campaign watchdog group Wednesday filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission charging that Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee filed “false” campaign disclosure reports that concealed payments to the private investigative firm that commissioned the controversial “dossier” on then candidate Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.

The complaint by the Campaign Legal Center — a nonpartisan group with no ties to any political party — came shortly after President Trump, in an impromptu press conference on the White House lawn, called it a “disgrace” that Clinton’s campaign and the DNC paid for what he termed the “fake” dossier. He claimed the disclosure has “turned around” the multiple, ongoing investigations into possible links between his campaign and Moscow.

“So they made up the whole Russia hoax,” said Trump when asked about the disclosure about the Clinton campaign’s involvement in the dossier, which was first reported by the Washington Post. “Now … the hoax has turned around.”

The nine-page complaint by the campaign watchdog group says nothing about the veracity of the allegations in the dossier, a subject that is still being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller and three congressional committees.

Instead, it focuses on how the dossier was paid for — through a prominent law firm, Perkins Coie, which hired the private investigative firm, Fusion GPS — and the failure of either the Clinton campaign or the DNC to report the actual purpose of these payments on their legally mandated campaign expenditure reports.

“The DNC and Hillary for America reported dozens of payments totaling millions of dollars to the law firm Perkins Cole with the purpose described as ‘Legal Services’ or ‘Legal and Compliance Consulting,’ when, in reality, at least some of those payments were earmarked for the firm Fusion GPS, with the purpose of conducting opposition research on Donald Trump,” the complaint by the Campaign Legal Center states. The complaint notes that the Clinton campaign made 37 payments to Perkins Cole totaling $5.6 million, and the DNC made 345 payments totaling $6.7 million.


“By failing to file accurate reports, the DNC and Hillary for America undermined the vital public information role that reporting is intended to serve,” the complaint states.

In particular, the complaint cites FEC policy guidance that states that entries for the purpose of a campaign disbursement “must be sufficiently specific to make the purpose of the disbursement clear” and that, “as a rule of thumb, filers should consider the following question: ‘Could a person not associated with the committee easily discern why the disbursement was made when reading the name of the recipient and the purpose?’”

“This guts the reporting requirements of the FEC,” said Lawrence Noble, a former general counsel of the FEC who now serves as the top lawyer for the Campaign Legal Center, about how the payments for the dossier were reported.

A spokesperson for the Hillary for America campaign and the DNC did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Graham M. Wilson, a partner at Perkins Cole, said in response: “Hillary for America and the DNC complied with all campaign finance laws, including their obligations to appropriately report and describe the purpose of all of their expenditures. This research work was to support the provision of legal services, and payments made by vendors to subvendors are not required to be disclosed in circumstances like this. This complaint fails to even note the Federal Election Commission’s affirmation in 2013 of the relevant rule, notes no authority to the contrary, and is patently baseless.”

Campaign legal experts and consultants say it is not at all uncommon for candidates of both parties to conceal expenditures for opposition research by paying for it through law firms or outside consultants. “It’s a black hole,” said one Democratic opposition research specialist, who asked not to be identified, and whose work for campaigns has rarely been publicly disclosed.

Moreover, there is ample precedent — approved by the FEC — for such arrangements. Ever since Walter Mondale’s campaign for president in 1984, the FEC has permitted campaigns to report lump sum payments to campaign consultants, law firms and other vendors without identifying subcontractors or subvendors they may have hired, so long as the payments were for the same general purpose listed for the overall disbursement in the first place.

But Noble said the FEC has become far too lax in enforcing its own rules demanding the accuracy of campaign expenditure reports — and the case of the dossier, due to its prominence and its impact on Trump’s White House, may have taken matters to a whole new level and could cause the commission (which rarely takes enforcement actions these days) to revisit the issue.

Most opposition research consists of culling through publicly available data bases and news clips, highlighting inconsistencies in a rival candidates’ position or publicly reported indiscretions in their past. Fusion GPS, a firm founded by two well-respected former Wall Street Journal reporters, went well beyond that. It was originally commissioned to research Trump’s business background by someone acting on behalf of a Republican primary opponent of Trump’s. In March of last year, as Trump emerged as the clear frontrunner for the nomination, the firm approached Marc Elias, a senior partner at Perkins Cole who represented the Clinton campaign and the DNC. Fusion “expressed interest in an engagement with the Firm … to continue research regarding” Trump, according to a letter sent by the managing partner of Perkins Cole to a lawyer for Fusion GPS on Monday, as the firm was battling a House Intelligence Committee subpoena for disclosure of its clients.

Candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign town hall in Janesville, Wis., in March 2016. (Digitally enhanced: Yahoo News; photo: Jabin Botsford/Washington Post via Getty Images)

Elias — after consulting with senior officials at the Clinton campaign and the DNC — approved the retention. At some point that spring, Fusion GPS retained a former British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele. Steele paid for information from Russian sources who reported allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Putin government. His reports on these allegations — which he has since described as “raw intelligence” — formed the basis for the dossier.

But how much senior officials at the Clinton campaign and the DNC were informed about the work being done by Fusion GPS and the contents of the dossier is unclear. Donna Brazile, who became the DNC chair after Fusion GPS was hired but served most of the time the dossier was being assembled and while some of its contents shared with journalists, told Yahoo News Wednesday that at one point she requested the names of every consultant working for the committee — and she was never told by Perkins Coie about the work being done by Fusion GPS. “I knew nothing about it,” she said. (The Clinton campaign did not respond to inquiries about the matter Wednesday. A lawyer for Fusion GPS declined comment. )

“The clients were aware and approved the retention of outside research firms,” said a lawyer representing Perkins Cole who asked not to be identified. “They did not know which research firms had been engaged. … There was no reason to tell them.” The lawyer added that the material being investigated was “sensitive” and “you don’t want hundreds of people working on the campaign to be in the loop on it.”

Read more from Yahoo News:

 

  • 4 Things Aurora Cannabis Did Right Before Its NYSE Debut
    Business
    Motley Fool

    4 Things Aurora Cannabis Did Right Before Its NYSE Debut

    Aurora Cannabis (NASDAQOTH: ACBFF) (TSX: ACB) has sought to make it even easier for U.S. investors to buy its shares by arranging to have its shares listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Beginning tomorrow, Oct. 23, Aurora will join the elite group of cannabis companies whose shares trade on major U.S. exchanges. Getting ready for the increased exposure that a NYSE listing brings takes time and effort, and Aurora Cannabis hasn't wasted any time.

  • Finance
    CNBC

    Here's the tax bite on $1.6 billion Mega Millions and $620 million Powerball jackpots

    Strategies can be employed to reduce the amount of your win that is taxed, although they are best explored with the help of an experienced tax advisor. While it's anyone's guess who will end up winning the Mega Millions and Powerball jackpots, there's at least one guaranteed recipient of a chunk of the loot — the IRS. With the Mega Millions jackpot at $1.6 billion and Powerball's top prize at $620 million, that tax bill will be hefty even if the winner employs strategies to reduce their taxable income.

  • News
    CNBC

    Here's how much money you should have saved by 50

    Fidelity, the nation's largest retirement-plan provider, recommends having the equivalent of six times your annual salary saved. To get to that number, Fidelity recommends saving 15 percent of your annual income. Make sure to invest these funds instead of leaving them in a traditional low-interest savings account.

  • China Will Open the World's Longest Sea Bridge This Week. A Lot of People Are Unhappy About It
    World
    Fortune

    China Will Open the World's Longest Sea Bridge This Week. A Lot of People Are Unhappy About It

    Later this week, the long-awaited 34-mile sea bridge connecting mainland China to Hong Kong and Macau will finally open. In a ceremony on Tuesday that Chinese president Xi Jinping will reportedly attend, the bridge will officially open. Some critics see the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge as an attempt by mainland China to tighten its grip on Hong Kong, which is an autonomous region.

  • Meet What Could Be Advanced Micro Devices' Next Billion-Dollar Business
    Business
    Motley Fool

    Meet What Could Be Advanced Micro Devices' Next Billion-Dollar Business

    Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ: AMD) CEO Lisa Su said earlier this year that the company plans to achieve "mid-single-digit server unit share" by the end of 2018. The chipmaker's server chip market share crossed 1% at the end of the second quarter. Mercury Research estimates that AMD now commands 1.3% of the server market as compared to just 0.5% earlier.

  • Markets Right Now: Banks lead US indexes lower; tech gains
    Business
    Associated Press

    Markets Right Now: Banks lead US indexes lower; tech gains

    NEW YORK (AP) -- The latest on developments in financial markets (all times local): 4 p.m. Banks led a broad slide in U.S. stocks on Wall Street, giving the S&P 500 index its fourth straight loss

  • Raytheon to lay off 52 local workers after loss of $3.5B military deal
    Finance
    American City Business Journals

    Raytheon to lay off 52 local workers after loss of $3.5B military deal

    Defense giant Raytheon Co. (NYSE: RTN) plans to lay off dozens of workers in Orlando after losing a competitive contract. The Waltham, Mass.-based firm notified Florida on Oct. 17 that it will lay off 52 local workers by Dec. 31. Some of the jobs being cut are computer system technologist, contract negotiator, logistics specialist, project managers, software engineers, procurement specialist and more.

  • T-Mobile CEO said he'd rather live in Kansas City than Bellevue
    Finance
    American City Business Journals

    T-Mobile CEO said he'd rather live in Kansas City than Bellevue

    T-Mobile US Inc. CEO John Legere said he would rather live in Kansas City than Bellevue, and T-Mobile plans to make new “centers of employment” with or without a Sprint Corp. merger. The details emerged after Legere spoke at an employee meeting at Sprint headquarters. Sprint was required to provide a transcript to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission because it discussed the company’s planned $26.5 billion merger bid with T-Mobile.

  • 3 Dividend Stocks to Fund Your Retirement Nest Egg
    Business
    Motley Fool

    3 Dividend Stocks to Fund Your Retirement Nest Egg

    Dividend stocks play a key role in a good retirement portfolio, but investing indiscriminately in companies just because they offer a big yield or have a recent history of payout growth will likely cause your portfolio's performance to fall short of its

  • Trump's approval rating hits new high ahead of midterms
    ^GSPC
    Yahoo Finance Video

    Trump's approval rating hits new high ahead of midterms

    A new poll shows President Trump's approval rating rose to 47% ahead of the November midterm elections. Yahoo Finance's Seana Smith, Adam Shapiro, Rick Newman, and Andy Serwer discuss.

  • Finance
    American City Business Journals

    Microsoft's typical worker makes $168K a year — how that compares with Facebook, Google, PayPal, Box, Salesforce, Intel and other big Bay Area tech employers

    Microsoft Corp. is the latest major Silicon Valley tech employer to reveal just how much its typical employee earns — and how that compares with its top executive. The software giant's median employee pay — almost $168,000 — is high, even by Silicon

  • Investors Dumped Cannabis Stocks after Legalization Last Week
    Finance
    Market Realist

    Investors Dumped Cannabis Stocks after Legalization Last Week

    Cannabis Stocks Getting Dumped after Legalization? Cannabis sector Last week, the overall cannabis sector ended in negative territory. The Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences ETF (HMMJ) lost almost 5.4% of its value, while the Emerging Marijuana Growers

  • Aurora Cannabis is plunging ahead of its debut on the New York Stock Exchange
    Business
    Business Insider

    Aurora Cannabis is plunging ahead of its debut on the New York Stock Exchange

    Aurora Cannabis is set to begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday under the ticker ACB. Aurora Cannabis was plunging Monday, down more than 14%, one day ahead of the company's trading debut on the New York Stock Exchange. The Canadian producer, which grows cannabis for both the adult-use and medicinal market, has seen its market capitalization explode by more than 150% since August — to nearly $10 billion — as both corporate giants and investors have gotten in on the "green rush" into marijuana.

  • Former General Electric vice chair on the company's futur...
    Business
    CNBC Videos

    Former General Electric vice chair on the company's futur...

    Beth Comstock, Nike board member and former vice chair of General Electric, weighs in on the future of General Electric under new CEO Larry Culp.

  • 5 Popular Marijuana Stocks I Wouldn't Buy With Free Money
    Business
    Motley Fool

    5 Popular Marijuana Stocks I Wouldn't Buy With Free Money

    Last week on Oct. 17, Canada lifted the curtain on nine decades of prohibition and legalized recreational marijuana for adults. Given the notable surge in pot stocks since the beginning of 2016, it's pretty evident that Wall Street and investors expect the industry to be a resounding success. With that being said, there are a handful of marijuana stocks -- some quite popular -- that I simply wouldn't buy, even if I were given free money to do so.

  • Why Sears Holdings Corp. Stock Slipped Today
    Business
    Motley Fool

    Why Sears Holdings Corp. Stock Slipped Today

    In bankruptcy, Sears Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ: SHLD) shares continue to jump up and down just as they did leading up to the Chapter 11 filing. Sears' shares surprisingly rose last week in the sessions after declaring bankruptcy as the stock doubled from Oct. 15 to 17 in a move likely driven by speculators and day traders. There was little company-specific news out on Sears today, though the stock should remain volatile as bankruptcy negotiations play out.

  • Why AMD Stock Fell 11% on October 19
    Finance
    Market Realist

    Why AMD Stock Fell 11% on October 19

    Semiconductor (SMH) stock Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) fell 11.1% on October 19 to close trading at $23.66. New Street Research analyst Pierre Ferragu has a 12-month price target of $18 for AMD. Ferragu stated, “AMD’s stock price reflects a scenario we don’t believe possible.

  • Finance
    TheStreet.com

    Cannabis Stocks, Led by Tilray and IGC, Get Taken to the Woodshed

    U.S. stocks were mostly lower on Monday, Oct. 22, and cannabis plays weren't immune with some of the biggest names dropping double digits. The S&P 500 was declining for the 11th time in 13 sessions while the Dow Jones Industrial Average also was

  • This Warren Buffett Stock Is Dirt Cheap Right Now
    Business
    Motley Fool

    This Warren Buffett Stock Is Dirt Cheap Right Now

    Warren Buffett has amassed a large portfolio of bank stocks for Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A) (NYSE: BRK-B) with major holdings in Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC), and American Express (NYSE: AXP), just to name a few of the most well-known and largest investments. Synchrony is a major issuer of store-branded credit cards and also operates a rapidly growing online banking platform.

  • 3 Dividend Stocks That Pay You More Than Coca-Cola Does
    Business
    Motley Fool

    3 Dividend Stocks That Pay You More Than Coca-Cola Does

    With a better than 50-year history of paying dividends, Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO) is seen as an icon of stable, strong, secure payouts. Although Coke and its dividend are not in trouble, there are better investments to be found. Three stocks that these Motley Fool contributors particularly like are Dominion Energy (NYSE: D), AbbVie (NYSE: ABBV), and MGM Growth Properties (NYSE: MGP).

  • What the Market Missed in Kinder Morgan Inc.'s Results
    Business
    Motley Fool

    What the Market Missed in Kinder Morgan Inc.'s Results

    Kinder Morgan (NYSE: KMI) can't seem to catch a break these days. Despite its completing what management dubbed a "momentous" quarter, shares of the natural gas pipeline giant barely budged this week. It was a head-scratching outcome considering that its financial results came in well above its guidance, which the market seems to have completely missed.

  • Which Canadian Marijuana Stock Will Enjoy a Bigger Bump From Its NYSE Listing -- Aphria or Aurora?
    Business
    Motley Fool

    Which Canadian Marijuana Stock Will Enjoy a Bigger Bump From Its NYSE Listing -- Aphria or Aurora?

    Maybe Wall Street should be called "Weed Street." Big Canadian marijuana grower Canopy Growth listed its stock on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) earlier this year. Aurora Cannabis (NASDAQOTH: ACBFF) begins trading on the NYSE on Tuesday, Oct. 23. Aphria (NASDAQOTH: APHQF) filed last week to list its stock on the NYSE.

  • Suze Orman has a killer question for your retirement
    Business
    MarketWatch

    Suze Orman has a killer question for your retirement

    Suze Orman is one of those singular personalities in the financial business who seems to be right on the pulse of everyone she meets. She’s written books, starred in her own television show and made innumerable appearances in person. Like Oprah

  • The Top Marijuana Dividend Stock Most Investors Know Nothing About
    Business
    Motley Fool

    The Top Marijuana Dividend Stock Most Investors Know Nothing About

    Marijuana stocks have been all the rage in the investing world lately, and those who are interested in investing in the space have quickly gotten up to speed about some of the basic ways to make money in the cannabis business. The best-known pure-play marijuana stocks specialize in the growing of raw marijuana plants and the production of refined cannabis products, and many marijuana investors have placed their bets on various companies after making informed choices about whether a particular business has a competitive advantage that will help differentiate it from the many other competitors in the cannabis industry.

  • Advanced Micro Devices: What the Recent Sell-Off Implies
    Finance
    Market Realist

    Advanced Micro Devices: What the Recent Sell-Off Implies

    After years of silence, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) stock gained momentum in 2016. Growth came as AMD started gaining market share in the PC and server CPU (central processing unit) and GPU (graphics processing unit) markets from Intel (INTC) and Nvidia (NVDA). AMD’s growth spree was affected by the recent stock market sell-off on October 10, triggered by the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike.