When running for president, candidates are expected to hold big rallies, give big speeches, weigh in prominently on politics, and fundraise large sums of money. Donald Trump isn’t officially running for president. He’s just constantly holding big rallies, giving big speeches, weighing in prominently on the day’s politics, and fundraising large sums of money.
One democratic political action committee is calling bullshit, demanding that the Federal Election Commission crack down on Trump and accusing the election regulator of handing the former president an unfair advantage.
On Wednesday, the group American Bridge Pac (AB PAC) filed a complaint with the FEC, demanding it hold Trump to the financial transparency standards required of presidential candidates.
Wednesday’s push follows an earlier complaint the group filed in March, when it alleged Trump violated the Federal Election Campaign Act. Trump violated that act, the group wrote, “by making expenditures to advance his 2024 presidential campaign without filing a statement of candidacy with the FEC or disclosing those expenditures, and by accepting excessive contributions from his leadership PAC and a joint fundraising committee.” Failing to disclose that information is depriving voters of the transparency mandated by elections law, the group said. The group also requested the committee investigate the possibility that Trump was accepting “ excessive contributions from Save America, his leadership PAC, and Save America Joint Fundraising Committee.”
AB Pac now alleges that the FEC has failed to act on the complaint. “The Commission’s inaction is allowing one candidate to build a campaign with illegal funds, giving him a competitive advantage over his opponents,” reads the filing. “If the Commission does not put a stop to Mr. Trump’s unlawful actions, it will only encourage other candidates to evade the requirements of the campaign finance system.”
“Donald Trump is running an active and illegal 2024 presidential campaign. We intend to hold him accountable — just like we did in 2020,” said Jessica Floyd, President of American Bridge 21st Century in a statment to Rolling Stone. “American Bridge is filing suit to stop Trump from flouting campaign finance laws. There must be consequences for his endless grift.”
With two FEC quarterly reporting deadlines having passed since they initially raised their concerns, AB PAC is demanding that the commission intercede within 30 days or they will seek recourse through a civil complaint against Trump.
Trump has embarked on a protracted public speaking tour and maintained outreach towards his base, raising millions of dollars from individual contributions and major donors in the process, and that money is being spent. In their filing AB PAC detailed how Trump’s activities, despite not having officially declared his candidacy, demonstrate he has already made a decision about running and is effectively campaigning for the presidency.
Sources tell Rolling Stone that the president is eying a campaign announcement in Florida as a direct challenge to Florida’s governor and potential presidential rival Ron Desantis. The timing of this announcement is subject to speculation, the former President had allegedly planned a bombastic July 4th declaration, but was apparently dissuaded by advisors intent on having him wait until after the midterms to stave off any potential blowback from the November elections.
In a July, 2021 interview, Trump answered “yes” when asked by Fox host Sean Hannity if he had made up his mind about running for president in 2024. In January of this year, Trump introduced himself at an event as “the 45th and 47th” President of the United States. At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February, Trump told attendees he was going to campaign “a third time.”
In a July interview with the New York Times’s Olivia Nuzzi that he had already decided to run in the election and that “the big decision” was whether he would announce before or after the midterms. Save America has been hosting intimate dinners with major Trump donors and advisors where 2024 campaign strategies are inevitably discussed, according to Politico, sources say the former president is taking “concrete steps” to prepare for his next campaign.
AB PAC alleges that Trump’s public activities disqualify him from the FEC’s “testing the waters” exemptions for potential candidates. The FEC allows for potential candidates to engage in activities aimed at exploring the feasibility of an election bid. These activities include things like “conducting polling, traveling around a district or state, and placing telephone calls to see if there is sufficient support for a candidacy.” The FEC clarifies that potential candidates are still subject to financial obligations: “An individual who tests the waters must keep financial records. If the individual becomes a candidate, the money raised and spent to test the waters counts toward the $5,000 registration threshold and must be reported by the campaign”
There are also limitations placed by the commission on what sorts of activities individuals “testing the waters” can engage in. Disqualifying activities include “raising more money than what is reasonably needed to test the waters or funds to be used after candidacy is established,” “using general public political advertising to publicize their intention to campaign,” and “conducting activities over a protracted period of time or shortly before the election.” The FEC states that “individuals who engage in these activities may no longer qualify for the testing the waters exemption, and if that is the case, would need to register as a candidate if they have raised or spent more than $5,000.”
The complaint alleges that Trump and his organizations have repeatedly violated these limitations and are not acting as an undecided candidate guaging the viability of a campaign. They argue that Trumps refusal to declare his candidacy while acting and spending like a candidate allows him to remain unburdened by transparency laws and is detrimental to the public at large.