Watchdog files lawsuit accusing Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows of campaign finance crimes

Representative Mark Meadows (R-NC)

Mark Meadows, White House Chief of Staff Getty / Alex Wong

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The government ethics watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has filed a complaint Friday accusing the White House chief of staff Marc des meadows of campaign finance crimes for allegedly spending thousands of dollars in campaign funds on personal expenses, including clubs, gourmet cupcakes, a jeweler in Washington, and lodging at the President’s hotel.

The complaint, which is based on Exclusive report from the Show last week, urges the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to administer all appropriate fines and take further action, “including, but not limited to, referring this matter to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution.”

In the document, CREW isolates suspicious transactions from nearly $ 75,000 in campaign spending after Meadows announced his retirement from Congress last December, payments that extended long after his formal resignation when he joined the White House March 30.

“One of the clearest rules when it comes to campaign finance is that you can’t spend your campaign finances on yourself,” Noah Bookbinder, director of CREW, said in a statement announcing the complaint. “This is what appears to have happened here, and it needs to be fully investigated.”

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Throughout 2020, Meadows’ campaign committee, Meadows for Congress, continued to rack up expenses, including more than $ 6,500 at numerous clubs and restaurants, including the Capitol Hill Club, the Trump International Hotel. and its BLT restaurant. First. Other charges included groceries and Lavender Moon cupcakes in Washington.

As Salon first reported, the complaint also shows that the Meadows campaign lost $ 2,650 at Ann Hand jewelry in Washington on the day Meadows officially resigned from Congress. He also paid more than $ 5,800 to a campaign assistant for the ‘field representative’ mileage months after the former North Carolina representative announced he would no longer campaign – a time that CREW reports as suspect.

At the time of mileage charges, for a few weeks in February, Meadows’ handpicked successor and friend of his wife Lynda Bennett had been hosting fundraising events in the Meadows district of West Carolina. North. Show reported On Friday, Meadows appears to have used taxpayer-backed Congressional allowance funds to reimburse a congressional aide for travel “mileage” accrued during the exact days of one of Bennett’s fundraisers with Debbie Meadows.

According to the Campaign Finance Act, funds are improperly converted for personal use “if the contribution or amount is used to fulfill a commitment, obligation or expense of a person that would exist independently of the election campaign of the party. candidate or individual functions as a federal office holder. . “

Despite the expense, Meadows for Congress does not appear to have actively raised funds during the same period. The campaign reported a total of $ 786.00 in contributions from January 1 to March 31, 2020, and $ 0 in contributions between April 1 and June 30, 2020, after which Meadows and McMichael converted the entity to Freedom First PAC .

The spending alignment, according to the complaint, makes it “unlikely as legitimate campaign spending” and raises “serious questions about whether Meadows and Meadows for Congress violated legal prohibitions on converting campaign funds to personal purposes “.

Meadows, who was recently shot for having hosted a “lavish wedding” in Atlanta in May in violation of state coronavirus restrictions, continued to report questionable spending after the campaign converted to Freedom First PAC on July 2. officials – and nearly $ 400 at Trump’s Washington Hotel. The PAC collected $ 0 from July 2 to October 14, 2020, again making the committee’s expenses unlikely to be legitimate campaign expenses, according to the complaint.

“As a result,” the CREW file says, “an FEC investigation into Meadows, Meadows for Congress, Freedom First PAC and McMichael is in order.”

On the day Meadows officially handed in his resignation from Congress, March 30, 2020, his campaign reported spending $ 2,650 on “printed material” from Ann Hand jewelers, which does not advertise the stationery or other “printed materials” on its website, as Salon reports. The closest item would be the American Eagle silk scarves in three different colors, which cost $ 350.

A representative for Ann Hand told Salon on Friday that the store did not sell anything that could qualify as “printed material.”

The complaint states that this payment “strongly suggests personal use.” Debbie Meadows has been pictured several times in Ann Hand jewelry, including at the Republican National Convention in August.

Some of the spending appears to overlap with Bennett’s campaign, to which the Meadows campaign donated maximum in March, weeks before he resigned. On June 23, the day of the Bennett District primary – and nearly three months after Meadows resigned – his campaign paid his assistant Henry Mitchell an additional $ 2,300 for “Management Consulting.”

Mitchell was also the person who received the $ 5,800 in “field mileage” that winter. It is not clear what these costs may entail, and the complaint alleges that they appear to constitute illegal expenses.

Seven days later, after Bennett lost the primary, Meadows for Congress spent $ 600 at Safeway’s grocers.

The complaint details $ 5,577.50 spent on food and drink from January through March, including $ 84 at Lavender Moon Cupcakery on February 12 and $ 1,583.12 at the Capitol Hill Club on January 13, January 17, February 11 and March 13. .

Other food and beverage charges include a $ 500 payment to the Trump International Hotel in early March, as well as multiple expenses for its in-house restaurant BLT Prime totaling $ 581.40.

Despite these expenses during this period, the complaint notes that Meadows for Congress does not appear to have actively raised funds, as Salon reported.

After converting the campaign to Freedom First PAC on July 2, Meadows grossed over $ 1,300 on “PAC food / drink,” including $ 1,000 at the Capitol Hill Club on July 21 and $ 69 at Lavender Moon Cupcakery. PAC spent an additional $ 400 on lodging at Trump’s DC Hotel in September.

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FEC rules give the agency the power to judge whether expenses are for personal use, including meal and travel expenses.

Friday, Salon deepened his reports on Meadows’ spending, detailing the possible use of federal taxpayer resources to support his wife’s friend campaign.

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