Maine’s Democratic Party illegally conspired with 32 other state party branches to break election finance laws, by unlawfully funneling $84 million into Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. The dirty donations were first wired to state parties, then instantly transferred straight back to Democratic National Committee headquarters. Every cent came back cleaned, starched and neatly pressed, according to a new lawsuit in the state.
“That makes this entire money laundering operation a scheme to circumvent base contribution limits,” attorney Dan Backer notes. The plot allowed wealthy Democrats to “make massively excessive six-figure contributions through straw entities on paper in order to deliver them to Hillary Clinton’s control.” That isn’t good. According to Backer, “It is exceedingly illegal to have done so.”
Backer’s most recent suit, filed in Maine, goes beyond his earlier efforts, bypassing the Federal Elections Commission entirely to hold the Maine Democratic Committee directly responsible. The suit is expected to turn up the heat on the FEC at the same time, through the added public attention.
Backer first made headlines in December by filing a formal complaint with the FEC outlining the details of what he uncovered. After months went by without a response, he filed suit against the FEC in a Washington, D.C. federal court.
Backer is hoping to compel the agency which investigates and enforces laws related to political fundraising to actually do their jobs and investigate the Democratic state committees.
In an interview with Maine Public Radio about the most recent suit, Backer explained how the Maine Democrats conspired with Hillary’s campaign “to exploit rules that allow state party committees to transfer unlimited sums between one another.”
Because huge wire transfers to and from the national campaign and the state level branches aren’t scrutinized, the Democrats were able to “circumvent individual donor limits and funnel the cash back to Clinton’s principal campaign committee.”
It is obvious that the whole thing was a smoke and mirrors magic show because “the state committees never had custody of the money.”
During the 2016 campaign, the joint fundraising committee “Hillary Victory Fund” went around to big donors asking for big checks. Under the rules, a donor can bundle up the maximum allowable contribution, for every possible candidate they can donate to, in one single check.
Theoretically, the money is meant to benefit all of the candidates the same as if each donation were made one-by-one. Legally, anyone can contribute $2,700 to any individual candidate.
Not only that, they can donate $10,000 all at once to every state party and another $33,400 to a national party.
Everyone involved “should be worried,” Backer warns. “They’re all looking at significant legal jeopardy.”
Along with Democratic party officials, there are quite a few big names on the hot seat. Steven Spielberg, Calvin Klein, even Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandburg all made questionably large bundled donations.
HVF held dinners at George Clooney’s house, and concerts with Elton John, where Democratic-leaning donors could write one convenient six-figure check and HVF would handle the details. Some stars donated more than $400,000.
What really happened is that all of it went directly to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Early in 2016, the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting uncovered evidence that “the money the party received from big donors was almost immediately transferred to the Democratic National Committee.”
When it goes out as fast as it comes in, how could it be “used,” they asked.
“The quick transfers raise questions about the state committees’ participation in the joint fundraising agreement, which are billed as arrangements that mutually benefit its participants. Yet little of the money donated to the Maine Democratic Party stayed there.”
Their reporting was backed up by FEC transaction records.
One shady transaction showed how $3 million went from the Hillary Victory Fund to the Maine Democratic Party. Almost immediately, 2.4 million went right back out to the DNC. “It’s unclear how the leftover money was spent.”
In another Maine transaction, “transaction data showed the state party sent a $15,000 donation to the DNC before it arrived from the Hillary Victory Fund.”
Backer explains the significance of these exchanges as “the money was papered to make it look like it passed through state committees.”
“On the very same day each of these transfers supposedly occurred, or occasionally the very next day, every single one of those state parties purportedly contributed all of those funds to the DNC,” the federal lawsuit alleges.
Attorney Paul Ryan and his Common Cause “finance transparency group” has gone toe-to-toe with Backer in the past but this time agrees that what the Democrats were up to was wrong.
“There’s a lot of smoke here. There may be a fire,” he told local Maine news media. “There may be some actual violations of federal campaign finance law.”
“At a bare minimum,” he insists, “the FEC needs to open an investigation.”
While Ryan agrees there was wrongdoing, he says that focusing on the transactions misses a bigger infraction. He notes that Donna Brazile admitted publicly in her book that while she was chairwoman, “the DNC was basically run from Clinton’s campaign headquarters.”
To Ryan, that means that Hillary Clinton was controlling the spending. “For me, that looks like illegal or coordinated spending,” he declared.
All these shenanigans are something that the Department of Justice should also be looking at Becker points out. What the Democrats did is “4,000 times the magnitude” of the Dinesh D’Souza case. He was convicted in 2012 for “a strawman donor scheme.”