Charlie Spies, chief counsel of Right to Rise, the super PAC trying to help elect Jeb Bush president, has already demonstrated a knack for writing amazing, troll-y letters to Donald Trump this election. Well, he's back! Spies forwarded along this complaint, which he just filed with the Federal Election Commission Wednesday afternoon and which builds Right to Rise's issues with Trump using corporate resources to benefit his campaign, to me this afternoon. Using Genius, I annotated the letter. Join Genius and annotate alongside me!
Dear Mr. Petalas:
On behalf of Right to Rise PAC, Inc. ("RTR"), this complaint is against Donald J, Trump ("Trump"), Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., and Timothy Jost, as Treasurer (the "Campaign"), and The Trump Organization (the "Organization") (collectively, the "Respondents"), for Respondents' continual and intentional violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended (the "Act"), and the Federal Election Commission's ("Commission") Regulations. Given the numerous recent reports of Trump's deliberate misuse of the Trump Organization's corporate resources to support his presidential campaign, we file this complaint to supplement and highlight the allegations made in the complaint we filed against Respondents on December 9, 2015 (the "Initial Complaint").
It was clear before, but is now abundantly clear, that Trump's misuse of his company's corporate employees and resources to defend and aid his political candidacy has rendered the Organization and the Campaign as virtually indistinguishable entities. It is remarkable that a candidate fixated on erecting walls refuses to establish any semblance of a wall between his company and his presidential campaign. As we explained in the Initial Complaint, the blurred lines between the Organization and Campaign put Respondents squarely at odds with the Act's prohibition on a federal candidate's use, acceptance, direction, or control of corporate contributions and resources in connection with a campaign for federal office. See 52 U.S.C. §§30118(a); 30125(e).
In our Initial Complaint, we brought to light two specific instances in which Trump and the Campaign violated the foregoing statutory prohibitions by directing the Organization's in-house legal counsel to defend Trump's candidacy. In those cases, the Organization's General Counsel, Alan Garten, sent cease and desist letters attempting to bully and intimidate the Club for Growth, a private individual, and RTR into stopping running advertisements informing the public of embarrassing facts about candidate Trump's campaign. It now appears these violations, where Trump directed the Organization's employees to do the Campaign's dirty work, were not isolated or even limited to Mr. Garten. In fact, it appears from recent reports that the Campaign's use of Organization employees and resources is institutional and widespread, allowing the Trump Organization to act as the Campaign's alter-ego.
The latest example of Trump's misappropriation of his company's resources came two weeks ago, in the context of a blunder with the Campaign's first TV advertisement, which "made the mistake of using a video clip of Morocco instead of Mexico." In an effort to perform damage control for the Campaign, and referring to the campaign vendor responsible for the mistake, Michael Cohen, the Trump Organization's corporate Executive Vice President and Special Counsel, explained to CNN's Chris Cuomo that "whoever the person is, I'm sure I'll be sending them a letter very soon on behalf of Mr. Trump." He assured Cuomo that "[y]eah, I'm going to have a conversation with whoever made the mistake — there's no doubt about that." Importantly, Cohen is not the Campaign's attorney or paid by the Campaign — he is employed solely by the Trump Organization.
This is not the first time that Cohen's ambiguous role with the Campaign has been brought into question. In fact, numerous publications have highlighted the illicit role he has with the Campaign, and how it amounts to an illegal corporate in-kind contribution to Trump and his Campaign. According to a BuzzFeed article from July of last year, when Daily Beast reporter, Tim Mak, emailed the Campaign's spokesperson, Hope Hicks, about Cohen's ostensibly unlawful role with the Campaign, it was Cohen who responded to the reporter, not Hicks. Mak explained that Cohen "repeatedly read from the e-mail that we had sent the Trump campaign, suggesting that it had been forwarded between the Trump campaign and his corporate organization."
It is one thing for the Trump Organization's employees to occasionally volunteer their own time, away from their on-the-clock work for the Organization, to assist Trump's Campaign. It is an entirely other thing for Trump executives, like Cohen and Garten, to perform continuous and substantive Campaign work that is subsidized by the Organization. As we explained in the Initial Complaint, the Organization's executives' rendering of Campaign services, at no cost to the Campaign, and Trump and the Campaign's acceptance of such services at the expense of the Organization, constitute prohibited corporate in-kind contributions from the Organization to Trump and the Campaign, in violation of 52 U.S.C. §30118(a).
It is vital that the Commission promptly conduct an investigation into the serious and ongoing violations outlined above. Trump brags that he is "really rich," but inheriting millions does not make him above the law. Trump's continued exploitation of his company's corporate resources to support his candidacy runs afoul of the Act and the Commission's regulations at every turn. The foregoing is correct and accurate to the best of our knowledge, information and belief.
Charles R. Spies
James E. Tyrrell III
Counsel to Right to Rise PAC, Inc.