Mar 30, 2022 - Politics & Policy

FEC fines Clinton campaign, DNC for misreporting Trump dossier funding

Photo of Hillary Clinton speaking at an event
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers a speech during the opening session of the Generation Equality Forum in Paris on June 30, 2021. Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has fined Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee for not properly disclosing the money they used to fund opposition research that led to a controversial dossier on President Trump's links to Russia.

Why it matters: Political candidates and groups are required to publicly disclose their spending and provide a purpose for any expenditure that exceeds $200. The Clinton campaign was fined $8,000 and the DNC $105,000 for misreporting the dossier funding as "legal services" and "legal and compliance consulting" instead of opposition research, according to an FEC letter sent Tuesday.

Details: A source familiar with the case told Axios the vote was 4-2 to approve the conciliation agreement.

  • All three FEC Democrats voted for the agreement, as did Republican commissioner Sean Cooksey.
  • Republicans Trey Trainor and Allen Dickerson voted against approving the agreement.

Catch up quick: The dossier included salacious but unverified claims about Russian intelligence actively working with Trump, including in the 2016 election.

  • Many of the allegations have since been refuted, but the FBI used the dossier, prepared by former U.K. intelligence officer Christopher Steele, in efforts to acquire warrants for its investigation into the Trump campaign's alleged links to Russia's government.
  • The Clinton campaign and DNC paid the law firm Perkins Coie, which then hired Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm. The firm hired Steele to author the dossier.

A former lawyer for Clinton's 2016 campaign and the DNC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Our thought bubble via Axios' Lachlan Markay: Campaign finance reform advocates have long pointed to sub-vendor arrangements, such as the agreement between Perkins Coie and Fusion GPS, as a way campaigns can circumvent disclosure rules.

  • The nonprofit Campaign Legal Center sued the FEC this week over inaction on a complaint alleging the Trump campaign used sub-vendors to mask payments to Trump family members.
  • None of the parties to the DNC settlement admitted fault, nor did the FEC find any. Still, fines levied on high-profile political actors could spur more sub-vendor disclosure going forward.

The big picture: Trump sued Clinton last week, accusing her and dozens of others of working together to accuse him of colluding with Russia during the 2016 election.

  • Both the Clinton campaign and the DNC have said that they were not aware of the details of Steele's work in real-time, per CNN.
  • A bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report later affirmed the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion that Russia interfered in the election to help Trump defeat Clinton.

Axios' Lachlan Markay contributed to this report.

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