Time to add another campaign controversy to Donald Trump's presidential run!
On Monday, Telegraph published the results of an undercover investigation, which seemed to show that a PAC — backed by both Eric Trump and Rudy Giuliani — were willing to accept an illegal donation from a foreign contributor.
The publication's reporters went undercover, telling senior members of the Great America PAC that they represented a (fictional) Chinese national who wanted to give $2 million to the Apprentice alum's campaign.
It's important to note, Perezcious readers, that foreign donations are illegal in presidential elections.
The PAC's co-chairman, Eric Beach, seemed interested in the proposal, while also expressing concerns about his nationality. But, after the reporter explained that the benefactor is a resident of a foreign country, Mr. Beach suggested the client could contribute to a tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organization, because they aren't required to disclose the origins of their donations.
This would allow the illegal donation to go through because a "sister" 501(c)(4) could then contribute directly to its PAC, or just spend the illicit contribution on ads or some other projects.
And, while Eric did seem hesitant when it came to the donor's nationality, he did eventually advise the undercover journalists:
"One thing he has to understand is, what you guys have to understand is: you can get credit, but don't overdo it with the influence. I would just manage your expectations, say: 'you're going to get credit but your ‘non-disclosed' [donation] is not disclosed. Not just for your benefit, but for everyone's benefit.'"
He also said in an email, "any path we recommend is legal."
Hmmmmm. Seems shady.
But, that's not all!
A reporter also got an email from one of the PAC's former senior figures, Jesse Benton. Jesse stepped in regarding the negotiations as a "consultant," saying Eric didn't want a "paper trail."
Mr. Benton suggested that the foreign client send the $2 million to his business, Titan Strategies LLC, saying that he'll bill it as "a large retainer" for consulting work, and even sent an invoice for "appearances."
While meeting with the journalist, Jesse explained he would then move the money into two 501(c)(4)s, which would ultimately contribute the funds in connection with the 70-year-old's campaign.
And, even though he stressed "there is no prohibition" on his plan, he did appear to admit it was sketchy, saying:
"I don't know if you ever hear journalists wring their hands about ‘dark money' in politics - they're talking about 501(c)(4)s. There's no prohibition against what we're doing, but you could argue that the letter of the law says that it is originating from a foreign source and even though it can legally go into a 501(c)(4) then it shouldn't be done."
But, Jesse has since denied "unethical" behavior, and said he was "not an agent of Great America PAC."
Plus, PAC counsel Dan Backer insisted "has not had a role with the PAC since May and does not speak for it," and maintained the group's integrity:
"The conduct of the PAC and Mr. Beach's conduct was appropriate, ethical and legal at all times."