- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 29, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is illegally soliciting campaign donations from foreign nationals, according to a complaint being filed Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission.

Mr. Trump’s campaign has emailed solicitations to foreign nationals in Iceland, Scotland, Britain, and Australia requesting that they make contributions to his presidential campaign, according to a copy of the complaint being filed by the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, two campaign finance watchdog groups.

“Donald Trump should have known better,” said Paul S. Ryan, deputy executive director of the Campaign Legal Center.

“It is a no-brainer that it violates the law to send fundraising emails to members of a foreign government on their official foreign government email accounts, and yet, that’s exactly what Trump has done repeatedly,” Mr. Ryan said.

The complaint cites news reports of politicians in Iceland, Scotland, and Australia receiving the solicitations via email.

The complaint also charges that even after reports had emerged about Mr. Trump’s “Icelandic fundraising appeals,” “Donald J. Trump for President continued to send email fundraising solicitations to the official email accounts of multiple members of the British, Scottish, and Australian parliaments.”

“A reasonable person would have inquired into whether these individuals were foreign nationals, or concluded that there that there is a substantial probability that these individuals were foreign nationals,” the complaint says, arguing that the campaign already knew its list included foreign nationals and foreign leaders’ email addresses indicated they live in the United Kingdom or Australia.

Federal law bans foreign nationals from contributing to political campaigns in the United States.

The complaint outlines that a solicitation would be illegal if someone is aware of facts that would lead a “reasonable person” to question whether the source of a contribution is from a foreign national but a person failed to conduct a “reasonable inquiry,” or “to conclude that there is a substantial probability that the source of the funds solicited … is a foreign national.”

Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, said it’s “a strange and unique development that we have not seen before in campaign fundraising.”

“The FEC needs to investigate how many of these illegal solicitations were sent, to whom they were sent, whether any illegal foreign contributions have been received and, if so, whether the contributions have been returned,” Mr. Wertheimer said.

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