Government watchdog alleges Trump campaign broke the law trying to hide legal payments

A complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission alleges Donald Trump's 2024 White House campaign and its related political committees engaged in a scheme to conceal who is being paid for much of the former president's legal work in a possible violation of federal law.

The complaint filed Wednesday by the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit government watchdog, centers on a company called Red Curve Solutions, which allegedly received $7.2 million from Trump's campaign and four other related political committees between Dec. 7, 2022, and March 18, 2024, according to a CLC press release.

Red Curve Solutions helps political campaigns with a range of services, including "comprehensive budgeting, accounting and financial management and compliance services," according to the company's LinkedIn page.

Campaigns often pay outside organizations to manage polling, consulting or other needs. The Campaign Legal Center said in its Wednesday release that virtually all of the payments from Trump's campaign and committees are described as “Reimbursement for Legal Fees” or “Reimbursement for Legal Expenses”

However, Red Curve "does not appear to offer any legal services," CLC notes, while pointing out that Red Curve is managed by Bradley Crate, the same individual who serves as the treasurer for Trump's campaign and the four other committees.

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"The arrangement seems designed to obscure the true recipients of a noteworthy portion of Trump’s legal bills and, in doing so, seems to violate federal law," the organization stated.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 23: Former U.S. President Donald Trump appears in court for his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 23, 2024 in New York City. Former U.S. President Donald Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first of his criminal cases to go to trial. (Photo by Curtis Means-Pool/Getty Images)

"Red Curve appears to have been fronting legal costs for Trump since at least December 2022, with Trump-affiliated committees repaying the company later," CLC says in the release. "This arrangement appears to violate FEC rules that require campaigns to disclose not only the entity being reimbursed (here, Red Curve) but also the underlying vendor."

This kind of arrangement would prohibit the public from knowing which law firms are being paid for much of Trump's legal work and how much, CLC argues, and also may violate a federal prohibition on corporate political contributions. As a limited liability corporation, Red Curve "would be legally barred from making any contributions, such as an in-kind contribution or advance, to Trump’s campaign and any other 'hard money' committee – even if that payment or advance is fully reimbursed."

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Also named in the complaint are the Trump Save America Joint Fundraising Committee, the Save America leadership committee, Trump Make America Great Again Committee and Make America Great Again PAC.

Campaign finance experts have raised questions about Trump's use of campaign funds to pay his extensive legal bills. Save America has spent $76 million on legal fees, according to a USA TODAY analysis.

Trump's campaign also has been funneling money into his businesses at a time when he's under serious legal scrutiny and needs cash as he's facing major judgments in civil lawsuits and four separate criminal cases.

An FEC report filed this month show's Trump’s joint fundraising committee wrote three checks in February and one in March to his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, totaling $411,287 and another in March to Trump National Doral Miami for $62,337.

Trump posted a $91.6 million bond in a defamation case brought by the writer E. Jean Carroll, and a $175 million bond in a fraud case involving falsifying business records.

Trump currently is on trial in New York City on criminal charges stemming from alleged hush money payments to an adult film star to conceal an affair.

The FEC has a range of powers, but it generally imposes fines. However, deadlocked party-line votes are common, and have meant certain gray areas of the law are not enforced.

Contributing: Erin Mansfield, USA TODAY

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Donald Trump's campaign hit with Federal Election Commission complaint