By Dan McCue/Courthouse News
(CN) – A nonpartisan group of election law experts on Wednesday accused the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 president campaign of violating federal financial disclosure laws to hide payments for a dossier that alleged connections between then-candidate Donald Trump and Russia.
In a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission, the Campaign Legal Center says the Clinton campaign and DNC failed to file accurate records in violation of both commission regulations and the Federal Election Campaign Act.
“Specifically, the DNC and Hillary for America reported dozens of payments totaling millions of dollars to the law firm Perkins Coie with the purpose described as “Legal Services” or “Legal and Compliance Consulting,” when in reality, at least some of those payments were earmarked for the firm Fusion GPS, with the purpose of conducting opposition research in Donald Trump,” the complaint says.
“By failing to file accurate reports, the DNC and Hillary for America undermined the viral public information role that reporting is intended to serve,” the complaint says.
In a written statement, Adav Noti, a senior director of the Campaign Legal Center said the alleged acts of the Democrats and the Clinton campaign “undermined the vital public information role of campaign disclosures.”
“Voters need campaign disclosure laws to be enforced so they can hold candidates accountable for how they raise and spend money. The FEC must investigate this apparent violation and take appropriate action,” Noti said.
Neither Hillary Clinton nor the DNC responded to a request for comment on Wednesday afternoon. A representative of Perkins Coie could also not be reached for comment.
But one person who is not being quiet about the allegations in the complaint and media reports surrounding it, was President Donald Trump who on Wednesday claimed that Clinton’s campaign paid nearly $6 million for the dossier alleging ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
In an interview set to air Wednesday night on Fox Business Network’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” Trump ripped the dossier as “a total phony” and “disgraceful,” alleging that the Clinton campaign spent almost $6 million to fund the research.
“Don’t forget Hillary Clinton totally denied this. She didn’t know anything. She knew nothing,” the president said. “All of a sudden they found out. What I was amazed at, it’s almost $6 million that they paid and it’s totally discredited, it’s a total phony. I call it fake news. It’s disgraceful. It’s disgraceful.”
The Washington Post broke the story Tuesday, reporting that both the Clinton campaign and the DNC funded the research contained in the dossier, which alleges coordination between members of Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia.
The Post said the campaign paid Perkins Coie $5.6 million between June 2015 and December 2016, and that Marc Elias, a lawyer representing both the Clinton campaign and the DNC, retained Fusion GPS’s services in April 2016.
The dossier contends that Russia was engaged in a long-standing effort to aid Trump and had amassed compromising information about the Republican. Trump has repeatedly dismissed the document as false and in recent days has questioned whether Democrats or the FBI had helped fund it.
Trump immediately seized on the Washington Post report, telling White House pool reporters Wednesday morning that it showed his opponents made up “the white Russia hoax” and that the Democrats continued to push the “phony” narrative as “an excuse for losing an election.”
“It’s just really — it’s a very sad commentary on politics in this country,” Trump said.
The new disclosure is likely to fuel his complaints that the document is a collection of salacious and uncorroborated claims, and that claims of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign are totally false.
The allegations are the focus of an ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, and it has been reported that his team recently spoke with Christopher Steele, the former British spy who helped compile it the material.
Trump also has challenged the findings of the FBI, NSA and CIA that Russia waged a large-scale influence campaign to interfere in the election. The FBI and the CIA have said with high confidence that the effort was aimed at hurting Clinton’s candidacy and helping Trump. The NSA found the same with “moderate” confidence.
Catherine Hinckley Kelley, who filed the complaint on behalf of the Campaign Legal Center, is asking the Federal Election Commission to investigate the organization’s claims, and, if the allegations are proven, to sanction the defendants and enjoin them from committing further violations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.