Trump Just Admitted To Campaign Finance Grift, NBD

We love you, The Washington Post, we really do. But sometimes your articles need to be fed through a Bullshit to English translator. Case in point, yesterday's piece by reporters Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey titled "Trump, talked out of announcing a 2024 bid for now, settles on a wink-and-nod unofficial candidacy."

Apparently, Trump wanted to take advantage of the chaos surrounding the Afghanistan pullout to announce his candidacy for 2024, but his advisors persuaded him to hold off because he'd be making the 2022 midterms a referendum on him, rather than on Biden and the Democrats.

"The biggest point we drove home was that he doesn't want to own the midterms if we don't win back the House or Senate," a source told the Post.

But Trump is being far less coy than his minions about why he's not declaring yet, despite holding campaign rallies every weekend.

"We're not supposed to be talking about it yet, from the standpoint of campaign finance laws, which frankly are ridiculous," he said on September 11, "but I think you are going to be happy. Let me put it that way."

What campaign finance laws, you are wondering? Well, how about the ones that say you can only give $5,600 to a political candidate in any given election cycle — $2,800 for the primary, and another $2,800 for the general. Once Trump declares his candidacy, he has to distance himself from the PAC and start raising money for the campaign itself, not least because he'll have to start making those quarterly FEC reports, which will be scrutinized to evaluate the strength of his candidacy. He has every incentive to hold off making a formal announcement — with a "wink and a nod candidacy" in Post argot — as long as possible. In the meantime, he can send those deranged fundraising texts out and pocket unlimited cash from the rubes before the $2,800 clock starts ticking.

Here's how Walter Shaub, former head of the Office of Government Ethics, described the ploy in a post for the Project on Government Oversight, where he serves as Senior Ethics Fellow:

Trump hasn't said he's a candidate yet, and he may perceive benefits to keeping things loose. For one thing, it frees him of the obligation to disclose his personal finances again. It may also help him justify raising funds for his leadership PAC, whose money he can use for his personal benefit. This arrangement may give him a chance to hit up donors a second time to fund a campaign because, after all, he can't use the leadership PAC to fund a run for the White House. As Open Secrets' Anna Massoglia told me, the "rules against candidates coordinating with super PACs and dark money groups don't apply the same way to Trump since he isn't a candidate" and "that gives him more room to cozy up to groups that could later spend money to help him get him elected."

Shaub wrote that in August, before Trump all but shouted I AM A CANDIDATE, BUT I'M NOT ADMITTING IT YET IN A TRANSPARENT ATTEMPT TO GAME CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAWS. And, as Shaub noted, if we had passed meaningful voting reform legislation, or had a functional FEC, Trump wouldn't be able to get away with running this obvious scam.

And Trump isn't the only one saying the quiet part out loud.

"He tacitly keeps the 2024 crowd on notice that nobody can move a major muscle until he decides what he's doing," Kellyanne Conway told Scherer and Dawsey, before remembering herself and adding, "As for 2024, there has been a shift from intention to urgency as he watches in horror the many failings of this administration."

Yes, yes, admit that your party is a cult in thrall to a demagogue and that the other candidates are totally fucked even if Trump doesn't run because they can't do shit to get off the ground until the former guy quits playing campaign finance games.

LOL, it's all fun and games until someone actually tells the truth.

[WaPo / Project on Government Oversight]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.


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