Common Cause Files DOJ & FEC Complaints Apparent “Straw Donor” Contributions to Trump Campaign

On March 18, 2019, Common Cause filed complaints with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging reason to believe that a Florida businesswoman violated campaign finance laws by enlisting and reimbursing “straw donors” tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions related to the reelection efforts of Donald Trump.

The New York Times reported March 16, that Li Juan “Cindy” Yang appears to have recruited a number of employees and family members in order to meet the $50,000 price tag for a photo with President Trump at a Republican National Committee fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, FL in March 2018. According to the report several of the employees of massage parlors and other businesses associated with Yang who contributed $5,400 appeared to be of modest means – working as receptionists and giving facials – and atypical of contributors giving such large amounts to political campaigns or committees.

“The circumstances brought to light by media reports raise a number of red flags that warrant investigation as possible violations of campaign finance laws that are in place to prevent the corruption of public officials through excessive contributions,” said Paul S. Ryan, Common Cause vice president for policy and litigation. “If these potential violations are substantiated by investigators, they must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law in order to serve as a deterrent to other potential violators. This alleged scheme was only unearthed by the hard work of a team of investigative journalists. The overwhelming majority of political contributions never receive such scrutiny.”

“Money is routinely used to buy access and influence in Washington and at the state and local levels, making it vital that our political contribution limits be strictly enforced to prevent corruption and even the appearance of corruption which undermines public faith in our elected officials,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. “Our campaign finance laws have repeatedly been weakened by the Supreme Court, but those still in effect must be enforced. And Congress must take steps to pass new laws – like many of those included in the For the People Act recently passed by the House – to fight the overwhelming influence of large donors and special interests in Washington.”

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