Monthly Archives: May 2018

Trump, Cohen, Stormy Daniels, and the Murky Election Laws

If you find this whole thing about the relationship of the hush money to federal election laws confusing, you’re not alone.  And just to be clear, this whole thing is more about what remarks are being made by observers than what’s actually established and official.  But I’m posting this link to a Time Magazine article dated May 3, 2018, for what it offers.

Essentially, two things are being said–again, by outside observers, not by anybody in an official capacity:

  1. If Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen paid $130,000 out of his own pocket to Stormy Daniels to bribe her to keep her mouth shut about her alleged affair with Trump, and if his motive for doing so was to help Trump win the election, then that could be called a donation “in kind,” a donation of services rather than cash, to Trump’s election campaign, with a value in excess of $2,700, the limit that any one individual can donate to an election campaign.  I’m not saying that I think this makes sense; considering that the law can’t limit the amount an individual or group can spend on running independent propaganda ads to help someone win an election, it isn’t clear to me how payment of hush money to a porn star counts as an official campaign contribution, even if the purpose is to help him win.
  2. If Trump paid Cohen back, even if he did so out of his own pocket rather than from his campaign’s treasury, and if his purpose was to help himself win the election, that counts as a campaign expenditure that should have been reported to the Federal Election Commission.  (Yes, like he’s really going to file a disclosure that says “hush money to porn star, $130,000.)

But as the Time article also explains, the whole thing is moot, because the FEC is in tatters and is not in any position to do anything anyway.   So I have a hard time really grasping what all the fuss is about.  But that Time article is illuminating, just for the sake of knowing what it is that’s being said.