Former President Donald Trump’s legal team have created of a new defense fund that enables wealthy donors to pay off potential witnesses in secret, avoiding public scrutiny. The “Patriot Legal Defense Fund,” established on July 19 as a political nonprofit under section 527 of the tax code, reportedly allows wealthy donors to make massive contributions anonymously, facilitating secret payments to potential witnesses involved in Trump-related cases.
The scheme is raising eyebrows and concerns among campaign finance experts and watchdog groups that he former president is actually getting away with “witness tampering.”
While this fund won’t directly cover Donald Trump’s personal legal fees, it aims to provide financial support to attorneys representing individuals who could potentially serve as witnesses in various legal actions tied to the former president. What’s more concerning is the limited oversight and few fundraising constraints that seem to surround this new organization, which experts fear could create an avenue for untraceable straw donations.
Under the current setup, there are no explicit limits on how much individuals or corporations can donate to the “Patriot Legal Defense Fund.” As noted by The Daily Beast, this means that megadonors with deep pockets might have the ability to wield significant influence while remaining hidden behind the curtain of anonymity.
Campaign finance attorney Brett Kappel at Harmon Curran pointed out that federal law does not establish specific contribution limits for such political nonprofit organizations. Additionally, the defense fund allows donors to avoid public disclosure of their names by paying a 35 percent excise tax on their donations.
This maneuver, while technically legal, raises concerns about potential abuses and the use of untraceable companies to shield donors from public scrutiny.
The operation of 527 groups, such as the “Patriot Legal Defense Fund,” is supposed to be primarily geared towards influencing campaigns for public office. Yet, experts have questioned whether this pro-Trump organization genuinely qualifies for its tax-exempt status, given the nature of its activities and its potential to operate in a lightly regulated political spending space.
Campaign finance watchdogs have raised concerns about the “Patriot Legal Defense Fund,” as 527 groups are intended to influence political campaigns for public office, and its eligibility for tax-exempt status has been questioned. Given Trump’s previous actions disregarding campaign finance laws, the establishment of this fund has raised numerous red flags and sparked suspicions about its true purpose and connections to electoral activities.
Paul S. Ryan, an expert in campaign finance law and deputy executive director for the Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation, voiced his doubts about the eligibility of this group. Saurav Ghosh, director of federal reform at watchdog Campaign Legal Center, warned that the establishment of the defense fund raised numerous red flags and appeared to be linked to elections, further intensifying the scrutiny surrounding the organization.
As public attention focuses on the unfolding drama surrounding the “Patriot Legal Defense Fund,” the controversy surrounding its operations could potentially cast a shadow on Donald Trump’s legal battles and raise questions about the transparency and ethics of such defense funds in the political landscape.