The popcorn opportunities seem to be multiplying. Why did a legal activist group that typically goes after Republicans file an immediate – and I mean immediate – complaint with the Federal Election Commission about Hillary Clinton’s and the Democratic National Committee’s payments to the law firm that contracted with Fusion GPS for the “dodgy dossier”?
Is a major anti-Clinton move being made?
The particulars can be summarized briefly. On Tuesday, as we know, the Washington Post published its report on anonymously-sourced allegations that Hillary’s campaign and the DNC paid Fusion GPS to commission the dodgy dossier on Trump in 2016. The go-between was the law firm Perkins Coie, through which Hillary campaign counsel Marc Elias acted to make this oppo research project happen.
I was skeptical about the reasons for this particular disclosure – via a carefully packaged “leak” to WaPo – at this particular time. It had the feel to it of a preemptive disclosure, intended to frame the information in it to someone’s advantage.
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Now we learn that the Soros-funded (!) activist group Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a complaint with the FEC on Wednesday, alleging that Hillary and the DNC both violated campaign finance law in connection with their funding of the Fusion GPS “research.” (H/t: Ace of Spades)
Besides being awful darn quick, the CLC complaint is clearly well researched and polished. It doesn’t look like something that was slapped together on the fly. The time lapse appears to have been something less than 21 hours, in fact: the WaPo story’s filing time, reflected on the website, was 7:21 PM on 24 October, and the time stamp on the CLC complaint, as received at the FEC, is 3:32 PM on 25 October (both times Eastern Daylight).
No matter what the circumstances, if I saw that, I would consider it highly probable that the CLC brief for the FEC complaint had been prepared in advance.
The substance of the FEC complaint is basically that Hillary’s campaign, and the DNC, which are both named as funding the Fusion research project through Perkins Coie, failed to properly disclose the purpose of some of their payments to Perkins Coie. For any expenditure over $200, they are supposed to make it clear what the payment is for. CLC is alleging that they didn’t do that.
Based on the information recounted in the complaint itself, it appears that the DNC did identify some $66,500 of the more than $6.7 million it paid to Perkins Coie as being intended for “research consulting.” But the Hillary campaign didn’t break down its $5.6-odd million disbursements to the law firm any further than as “Legal Services.”
The CLC complaint points out that the WaPo story names both entities – the DNC and the campaign – as co-funding the Fusion GPS research. CLC’s concern is that it cannot be discerned from the FEC filings from either party what amount of its payments to Perkins Coie, if any, was used for that purpose. CLC’s point is that this appears to violate the intent of federal campaign finance law.
Indeed, if you look at the wording of the WaPo article, you pick up on the same apparent fact. The article says plainly that the money paid to Perkins Coie isn’t broken down sufficiently to determine how much was used for Fusion GPS’s research.
People involved in the matter said that they would not disclose the dollar amounts paid to Fusion GPS but that the campaign and the DNC shared the cost. …
The Clinton campaign paid Perkins Coie $5.6 million in legal fees from June 2015 to December 2016, according to campaign finance records, and the DNC paid the firm $3.6 million in “legal and compliance consulting’’ since November 2015 [CLC’s complaint has a different figure] — though it’s impossible to tell from the filings how much of that work was for other legal matters and how much of it related to Fusion GPS.
So, just to be clear, the complaint here is not about the use of campaign or DNC funds for opposition research; it’s about the failure to disclose how much funding was used for that purpose.
That’s not a minor point, for that matter. It does look secretive to bury the funding line for oppo research in payments for “legal services.”
Note this important point as well. Verifying exactly how much went to Fusion GPS is a process that could well require an inspection of Fusion GPS’s finances. Investigating this FEC complaint could be the key to gaining the visibility on that sought by multiple parties.
And we don’t know what might be revealed by that probe. But numerous media outlets have been observing this week how very hard Fusion is fighting the subpoena of its records.
Why is a Soros group going after Hillary – and the DNC?
The question that leaps out at me, meanwhile, is why a Soros-funded non-profit that usually goes after Republicans was so hyper-prepared to file a complaint against Hillary and the DNC. Other recent targets of the Campaign Legal Center have been Roy Moore in Alabama, former HHS Secretary (previously Congressman) Tom Price, and 2016 primary candidates Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and Rick Santorum (along with Democrat Martin O’Malley, an early – and briefly interesting – rival to Hillary).
Indeed, the CLC was a key instigator of the IRS targeting campaign against conservative non-profits, starting as early as 2010. CLC was also identified in a Soros-funded effort to smear True the Vote with allegations that the voting watchdog group sought to “suppress minority voting.”
Of special note is the fact that CLC’s Senior Director for Ethics just joined the Center in July 2017, having made a public show of resigning in indignation from his previous post as Director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (i.e., a White House position) – to which he was appointed by Obama in 2013.
(The founder of the CLC, Trevor Potter, was counsel to John McCain’s presidential campaigns in 2000 and 2008. He served on the FEC as a commissioner from 1991 to 1995, and was the FEC chairman in 1994. Potter is a vocal critic of the Citizens United decision; neither his being a Republican nor his background with McCain and George H.W. Bush has prevented CLC from relying on Soros funding and targeting Republicans almost exclusively.)
Bottom line: CLC is the opposite of a Republican or anti-Hillary partisan actor. It could have remained silent, or at least approached the FEC filing without haste. George Soros, whose Open Society Foundation has been one of CLC’s top donors, spent millions supporting Hillary and the DNC in 2016. Yet CLC has moved with great alacrity in an apparent effort to expose the Hillary Democrats.
FBI informant’s release to speak before Congress a clue?
So it is extra interesting that the sudden move with the Fusion GPS funding revelation and the FEC complaint comes at exactly the same time as Wednesday’s other big news: that the FBI informant in the Russian nuclear-industry bribery scandal, from early in the Obama administration, will be allowed to testify to Congress on what he knows.
In each case – the funding of Fusion GPS and the dossier; the FEC complaint; and the testimony from the FBI informant – the common result will be to implicate Hillary up to her eyeballs.
Recall that the FBI informant has information directly indicating that the Russians sought to target the Clintons with their bribery scheme, and that money actually changed hands as a result.
Federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FBI and court documents show.
They also obtained an eyewitness account — backed by documents — indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow, sources told The Hill.
Whatever is going on here, it doesn’t look good for the Clintons. The remarkable thing is that circumstances seem to be aligning to expose the Clinton dealings.
I’ll wait to try to characterize this further – whatever it is – until after something meaningful actually happens. There’s no telling what might intervene before additional revelations and explicit exposure emerge. But things do seem to be on an unprecedented course at this point.