Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is facing accusations that some of its key supporters were willing to accept illicit donations from foreign backers.
According to a special investigation by U.K. newspaper The Telegraph, senior figures with the Great America PAC attempted to channel $2 million from a Chinese donor into the campaign to elect the GOP candidate, despite it being illegal to accept donations from foreigners.
The British media outlet said it used undercover reporters who pretended to represent the fictitious donor. They were reportedly assured by PAC co-chairman Eric Beach that the Chinese investor would obtain “influence” if Trump became president.
During a phone call with the journalist, Beach said that the donation could be put through a social-welfare organization set up in the tax code as a 501(c)(4), which unlike a PAC is not subject to a blanket ban on receiving foreign money,and not required to name donors. He stressed in an email that “any path we recommend is legal,” the Telegraph reported.
The paper also stated that the reporter was then contacted by Jesse Benton, a former senior PAC figure, who said he was a “consultant” and that Beach had not wanted a “paper trail” of contact, so he suggested that he channel the donation through his own company first.
While saying that he would need to know the donor’s identity, Benton said that his name could be “whispered into Mr. Trump’s ear whenever your client feels it’s appropriate.”
Benton told the undercover reporter that the money would be used for TV ads and grassroots campaigns.
“Trump knows that you know, people have stuck with him … I’m not gonna twist your arm or anything,” Beach told the undercover journalist at a Las Vegas event last week. “I just think that there’s no way that this group, and you guys have been participating indirectly or directly, won’t be remembered.”
The Telegraph reported that pro-Clinton organizations did not respond to similar offers, despite Trump repeatedly accusing his rival of relying too heavily on donations.
In May, Jesse Benton was found guilty of conspiracy, causing false records to obstruct a contemplated investigation, and engaging in a scheme to make false statements to the Federal Election Commission, the Washington Times reported.