Trump campaign accused of using 'pass-through' vendors to obscure $170 million in payments

ABC News

In an FEC complaint filed on Tuesday, the Washington-based nonpartisan group Campaign Legal Center said American Made Media Consultants and Parscale Strategy, two companies set up and by run by campaign leadership, including former campaign manager Brad Parscale, have been disguised as providing a variety of services to the campaign, when in reality they have essentially served as "clearing house" firms that dole out contracts and payments to various subcontractors and vendors without revealing the ultimate recipients of the donor money. The lack of disclosure of the campaign's payments to subcontractors, Campaign Legal Center wrote in the complaint, is a violation of the Federal Election Commission rule that requires campaigns to itemize disbursements to its ultimate vendors. The Campaign Legal Center complaint comes on the heels of a Business Insider report that the Trump campaign is conducting an "internal review" of its spending over the years following Parscale's departure as a campaign manager. Campaign Legal Center's federal reforms director, Brendan Fischer, told ABC News it's not uncommon for campaigns to have sub-vendors that are not itemized, and that's not unreasonable under some circumstances. One such example, Fischer said, would be if a campaign is contracting with a media consulting firm to produce its TV ads and the media consulting firm subcontracts with a videographer. But it becomes a potential issue when the failure to disclose the ultimate recipient of the money is done in an intentional or substantial manner, Fischer said. In 2017, Campaign Legal Center filed a similar complaint against Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Democratic National Committee for its failure during the 2016 election to properly disclose an opposition research contract with Fusion GPS, which produced the now-infamous Trump-Russia dossier, by listing it under regular legal and consulting services by its law firm, Perkins Coie. The scale and the scope of the Trump campaign's opaque spending through American Made Media and Parscale Strategy is unprecedented, Fischer said. "This $170 million scheme means that voters are left in the dark about a huge amount of money that's being spent by the Trump campaign," Fischer said. "The voters don't know which individuals or entities are being paid by the campaign, how much they're being paid and what and for what purpose they're being paid."

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