The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

FEC fines DNC, Clinton for violating rules in funding Steele dossier

Hillary Clinton in 2016. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)
2 min

The Federal Election Commission fined the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign for violating rules with the funding of the dossier at the center of accusations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The Coolidge Reagan Foundation filed a complaint against the DNC and Clinton campaign in 2018. The election agency’s decision was released Tuesday. The fine was first reported by the Washington Examiner on Wednesday.

The FEC, in its statement dated March 29, said the fine for the Clinton campaign was $8,000 and the fine for the DNC was $105,000.

The dossier, which BuzzFeed published in January 2017 just days before Donald Trump was inaugurated, was largely the foundation for theories about a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” between the Trump campaign and Russia and was cited by critics as proof of why Trump was unfit to be president.

Former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele assembled the dossier while contracted to work for the firm Fusion GPS on behalf of the Clinton campaign. Rumors of significant connections between the Trump campaign and Russia had been circulating in law enforcement and media circles for months before the dossier was published.

The FEC said the manner in which payments to Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm, were funneled — through a law firm — violated strict rules on how to describe election expenditures. However, the FEC dismissed allegations that the DNC, the Clinton campaign, Steele and Fusion GPS violated a host of other FEC rules.

The FEC said the law firm, Perkins Coie, paid Fusion $1,024,407.97 for the dossier in 2016.

Treasurers for the DNC and Clinton campaign claimed that they paid Perkins Coie, based in Seattle, for Fusion GPS’s information for legal services instead of opposition research. According to a conciliation agreement individuals affiliated with both organizations signed last month, the Clinton campaign and DNC argue that they were justified in stating that their payment was for “legal advice and services” since Perkins Coie hired Fusion GPS.

DNC spokesman Daniel Wessel told The Washington Post that the issue had been settled years ago. “We settled aging and silly complaints from the 2016 election about ‘purpose descriptions’ in our FEC report,” he said.

The conciliation agreement states that the DNC and the Clinton campaign will neither contest the commission’s finding nor concede to them, “solely for the purpose of settling this matter expeditiously and to avoid further legal costs.”