Pro-Trump PAC fined over foreign money offer
A pro-Trump political group has agreed to pay $25,000 to settle allegations it illegally solicited $2 million from reporters posing as intermediaries for a Chinese national.
Why it matters: A key player in the scheme, a veteran Republican operative, is facing criminal charges over allegedly funneling tens of thousands of dollars in foreign cash to Trump's re-election effort, making news of the fine the latest in an emerging pattern of conduct.
What's new: Great America PAC, a hybrid super PAC, reached an agreement with the Federal Election Commission to resolve the more recent allegations in June, according to a copy of the conciliation agreement released this week.
- The $25,000 civil penalty stemmed from an undercover investigation by the British Telegraph newspaper in late 2016.
- Reporters approached the PAC's principal, Eric Beach, posing as representatives for a Chinese national who wanted to donate to Great America.
- Beach worked with GOP operative Jesse Benton to devise ways to conceal the source of the funds, including funneling the money through a "dark money" nonprofit or through Benton's consulting firm.
Great America PAC was one of the largest pro-Trump independent expenditure groups in the country.
- It reported spending more than $9 million opposing or backing federal political candidates in the 2020 cycle and more than $23 million during the 2016 cycle.
Between the lines: Benton, a former senior aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is also facing criminal charges over his alleged role in a scheme to funnel money from a Russian national to a Trump fundraising committee last year.
What they're saying: "Benton’s conduct was dishonorable, unpatriotic, and clearly illegal," three of the FEC's six commissioners wrote in a joint statement on the Great America PAC settlement.
- The commission nonetheless deadlocked on whether to find probable cause of a violation by Benton individually.
- "It is unfortunate, to put it mildly, that the Commission failed to follow through and hold Benton accountable for his actions," the three commissioners wrote.