The main super-PAC supporting Donald Trump’s presidential bid faces allegations that it worked with foreign donors to facilitate donations from prohibited donations to the group.
An undercover investigation by reporters with Britain’s The Telegraph were allegedly directed by Great America PAC co-chairman Eric Beach to funnel a foreign donation through a non-profit so that the source could not be traced.
It’s against campaign finance law for foreign donors to give in connection to an election.
Dan Backer, the group’s lawyer, said in a statement that Beach’s “conduct was appropriate, ethical and legal at all times,” adding that Beach was simply telling the undercover journalists how “a U.S. company with a foreign parent company could potentially engage in legal political activity.”
Trump’s campaign, by law, has no connection to the super-PAC.
The investigation claims that a journalist posed as representative for a Chinese client who wanted to donate $2 million to the super-PAC but understood he could not because of his nationality.
Beach allegedly told the reporter to send the money through a non-profit, which does not have to disclose its donors and does not ban foreign money. Then, the non-profit could donate to the super-PAC legally with donations that originated from a foreign source. Beach, the Telegraph goes on to claim, told the reporter during a phone conversation that the donor could have access to Trump if he wins the White House.
“We can have that whispered into Mr. Trump’s ear whenever your client feels it’s appropriate,” Beach allegedly said about the donation.
The report also claims that Jesse Benton, a former aide to the group who was later convicted in an unrelated election law violation stemming from his work on Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign, reached out to offer his own non-profit as a way to funnel the donation.
Backer, the Great America PAC lawyer, denied that Benton was acting on orders from the PAC and accused him of unsanctioned “puffery and self-promotion.”
“Mr. Benton has not solicited any contributions to the PAC that I am aware of, nor has he been asked to,” Backer told The Telegraph in a statement.
And Benton told the paper that he did nothing “unethical” and did not work as “an agent of Great America PAC.”
Lawrence Nobel of the Campaign Legal Center, a campaign finance advocacy group, told the Telegraph there should be an investigation if “there is evidence that representatives of a super-PC were soliciting or knowingly accepting foreign national money and helping arrange for it to get into a super-PAC through a [non-profit] organization.”