posted at 7:21 pm on October 24, 2016 by Allahpundit
An O’Keefe-ian turn by the UK’s Daily Telegraph, although this is far less damaging to Trump than the Project Veritas videos are to Hillary despite the media oohing and ahhing over it this afternoon.
The sting is straightforward. The Telegraph had reporters pose as consultants to a fake Chinese businessman and then approach pro-Clinton and pro-Trump fundraisers with the promise of a $2 million donation — an illegal donation, as foreigners aren’t allowed to contribute to U.S. elections. The Democratic fundraisers didn’t bite. The Republicans did. Supposedly, Eric Beach of the pro-Trump Great America PAC referred the offer to Jesse Benton, who used to work for the group but now serves as an independent consultant to it. He left the PAC earlier this year when he was, er, convicted of criminal charges stemming from work he did on Ron Paul’s campaign in 2012. Anyway, Benton allegedly told the undercover Telegraph reporters that there was a simple solution to their problem. They could send the donation to his consulting firm, ostensibly as payment for services rendered in consulting on media appearances, then Benton’s firm would donate the money to a pair of 501(c)(4) groups and those groups would then donate the money to Great America PAC to help Trump. It’s a type of money-laundering scheme, it appears, with the 501(c)(4) groups used as middlemen because, by law, they don’t need to disclose their donors. The $2 million would be legally untraceable to the fake Chinese donor, although Benton reassures them (and Beach seems to imply) that President Trump would be informed of the donor’s generosity in due time, as pay-to-play requires. Benton insists all of this is legal, albeit with “gray areas,” but it sure seems as though Beach farmed this arrangement out to him because he knew it was dubious and didn’t want his or the Super PAC’s fingerprints on the transactions.
You’ll notice who’s missing from all of this: Trump himself. Unlike O’Keefe’s video from this afternoon, there’s no suggestion that the candidate or his campaign were involved in any of it, just a couple of guys boasting that they’d have his ear when the time comes. In fact, although Great America PAC has raised and spent plenty of money on Trump’s behalf, the campaign disavowed the group back in April — although that didn’t stop Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani from cutting ads for it or Trump’s own son, Eric, from attending a fundraiser for it last month. Reached for comment by the Telegraph about the sting, the PAC said this:
Dan Backer, counsel to the PAC, denied that Mr Beach asked Mr Benton to act for him and said Mr Benton “has not had a role with the PAC since May and does not speak for it”. The “professional referral” for “Mr Benton’s own benefit” was so that “Mr Benton could explore legal options for your reporters’ alleged client”.
He continued: “Mr Benton has not solicited any contributions to the PAC that I am aware of, nor has he been asked to do so.”
He suggested Mr Benton had simply engaged in “puffery and self-promotion”, adding that “the conduct of the PAC and Mr. Beach’s conduct was appropriate, ethical and legal at all times.”
Mr Backer added that “The PAC has never … solicited or accepted contributions from a foreign national or entity” and said Mr Beach had been suggesting how “a US company with a foreign parent company could potentially engage in legal political activity”.
As of August, the PAC was still struggling to land money from major backers, which may have contributed to their alleged willingness here to entertain foreign contributions. Clinton’s outraising Trump in outside money by a two-to-one clip; many big-name Republican donors closed their wallets to Trump this year, either because they disliked him or his politics or because they thought he stood little chance of winning and didn’t want to waste their money. Beggars can’t be choosers, especially with time running out in the race. As I say, though, there’s nothing here that points at Trump himself, although he’s destined to get a perfunctory question in his next non-Fox interview about why his nationalist fans are considering multimillion-dollar offers from the Chinese to buy influence. Click the image to watch the Telegraph’s short video summary of the investigation.