The Daily Beast: Pro-Trump College Group Won’t Tell the Feds What the Hell It’s Doing
A political group founded by Trump supporters in college has ignored repeated efforts by federal regulators to collect information on its political activities and financial backers.
Students for Trump, a political action committee founded during the 2016 campaign, conducted social media advocacy and campus organizing around the country in support of President Donald Trump’s campaign, and remains an active PAC today. It’s legally distinct from the Trump campaign itself, but they have coordinated as SFT tried to craft a youth turnout operation on Trump’s behalf.
But that explanation baffled Brendan Fischer, the director of federal and FEC reform programs at the Campaign Legal Center, an ethics watchdog group. “Sounds like they don’t know what they are doing,” he said after the reading the statement.
But those would be among the details that would be disclosed in a periodic FEC disclosure filing, according to Fischer of Campaign Legal Center. And it raises other potential FEC reporting issues. If SFT paid for its volunteers’ travel, it would need to disclose that expenditure. If those volunteers footed the bills themselves, the expenditures would likely count as in-kind contributions to SFT, and would also need to be reported.
“Out-of-pocket costs for travel expenses incurred on behalf of a political committee are considered contributions to that political committee,” Fischer explained in an email. “A person who is volunteering for a candidate or party may spend up to $1,000 of their own money on candidate- or party-related travel expenses without making a contribution, but that exception doesn’t apply to volunteers for PACs.”
Whether or not it is bringing in or spending money, the group needs to file periodic disclosures with the FEC, even if those disclosures list zero income or expenditures. SFT’s explanation for not doing so left much to be desired, Fischer said.
“This is a complete mess and appears to raise a number of FEC violations,” he said.