Tag Archives: Financial Crimes Enforcement Network

Release the Kraken, er, Kochtopus!

But of course they did.

The Trump administration has ordered “Release the Kraken er, Kochtopus!” from IRS “dark money” campaign contribution reporting regulations.

Now corporations and wealthy plutocrats are free to operate entirely in the dark, even from the IRS. ‘Dark money’ groups don’t need to disclose donors to IRS, Treasury says:

Nonprofits that spend money to influence elections but are not required to disclose donors to the public — called “dark money” groups by critics — no longer need to share their donors’ names or addresses in their tax filings under a new Treasury rule announced Monday.

The decision was immediately heralded by free-speech corporatist advocates who have long sought to protect donors’ private information. But it was rebuked by those who want to reduce the role of money in politics, who claim it would make U.S. elections more susceptible to anonymous foreign donations.

How significant is the change? Here is what you need to know.

What is this new rule about?

Wealthy donors can give unlimited sums of money to politically active nonprofits registered under sections of the Internal Revenue Service code, without their names or addresses being revealed in the nonprofits’ public tax filings.

There has been a surge of political activity by such nonprofit groups since the 2010 landmark Supreme Court Citizens United decision that allowed corporations to spend unlimited sums on campaigns.

These donors’ names, addresses and donation amounts were previously reported to the IRS, but the IRS would redact the names and addresses for public release.

With this policy change, the organizations will still be required to retain the donor information, but no longer have to submit it to the IRS.

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Russian operative arrested for influence operation in the NRA and GOP

Almost lost in Trump’s Surrender Summit on Monday is news that the Department of Justice announced it had arrested prominent Russian gun rights activist Maria Butina over the weekend, accusing her of setting up “back channel” lines of communication with the Kremlin in an operation that spanned from the months before Trump announced his candidacy in 2015 through February 2017, the month after his inauguration. What a Russian operative’s indictment reveals about the Kremlin’s attempts to infiltrate American politics and the NRA:

In the unsealed indictment, the department accused Butina of conspiring to infiltrate U.S. political groups and advance the agenda of the Russian government through her network of high-profile American contacts in politics and media.

Read the full Complaint and attached Affidavit.

The indictment includes the most explicit and detailed accusation to date against a Russian, working with the help of an American citizen, to influence the 2016 presidential election. It also provides new details about the Russian government’s attempts to curry favor among prominent Americans.

Notably, the charges are not being made by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing Russia’s attempts to meddle in the 2016 election. The investigation was carried out by the FBI’s field office in Washington, and Butina is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the Justice Department’s national security division.

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The Trump crime family cashes in before the Special Counsel closes in

Most of you are already familiar with the three emoluments clause cases filed against Donald Trump for profiting off of foreign governments at his properties as president.

The first case filed by the ethics group CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) was dismissed for lack of standing, but that case is currently on appeal.

In the second case brought by the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia (No. 8:17-cv-01596), U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte of the District of Maryland ruled that D.C., Maryland can proceed with lawsuit alleging Trump violated emoluments clauses. Judge Messitte rejected an argument made by critics of the lawsuit — that, under the Constitution, only Congress may decide whether the president has violated the emoluments clauses. But Messitte’s ruling also narrowed the lawsuit’s scope to the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., saying that the District and Maryland had standing to sue because they could plausibly claim to have been injured by Trump’s receipt of payments from foreign and state governments.

The third case was filed by more than 200 Democratic members of Congress, Blumental et. al v. Trump in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (No. 1:17-cv-01154), and is presently scheduled for a hearing on a motion to dismiss on June 7, 2018.

The Trump Hotel is only the tip of the iceberg according to reporting over the past week.

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Cohen payments get curiouser and curiouser (Updated)

Last week we were left wondering how Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels attorney, got his hands on Michael Cohen’s financial information, which appeared to come from a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR). Avenatti’s memo was quickly confirmed by news media outlets.

We still don’t know how Avenatti got his hands on the SAR report, but we now know how the media was able to confirm the financial information in his memo so quickly: a government whistleblower provided the news media with a copy of the SAR report.

The New Yorker reports, Missing Files Motivated the Leak of Michael Cohen’s Financial Records:

Last week, several news outlets obtained financial records showing that Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney, had used a shell company to receive payments from various firms with business before the Trump Administration. In the days since, there has been much speculation about who leaked the confidential documents, and the Treasury Department’s inspector general has launched a probe to find the source. That source, a law-enforcement official, is speaking publicly for the first time, to The New Yorker, to explain the motivation: the official had grown alarmed after being unable to find two important reports on Cohen’s financial activity in a government database. The official, worried that the information was being withheld from law enforcement, released the remaining documents.

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The Trump Swamp: ‘pay to play’ corruption

Over the weekend the New York Times and the Washington Post did some excellent investigative reporting into the shady finances of Donald Trump and his consigliere Michael Cohn. The more we learn about Cohn’s “pay to play” scheme, and the two pending lawsuits challenging Trump’s “pay tp play” scheme under the emoluments clauses of the U.S. Constitution, the more this feckless GOP-controlled Congress has an obligation to investigate Trump’s tax records and financial dealings as president to “drain the swamp”: this is the most corrupt administration in recent American history.

Steve Benen has a decent short summary, The closer one looks at Trump’s finances, the louder the questions become:

Last summer, Donald Trump sat down with the New York Times, which asked whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller will have crossed “a red line” if the investigation into the Russia scandal extends to include examinations of the resident’s finances. “I would say yeah. I would say yes,” he replied, adding, “I think that’s a violation.”

Naturally, this generated no shortage of speculation as to why Trump is so concerned about scrutiny of his finances. For that matter, there’s no reason to separate questions about the president’s finances with the Russia scandal – because as Rachel Maddow has explained on her show more than once, there’s an amazing number of people from Russia who’ve purchased Trump properties over the years. (My personal favorite is the story of Dmitry Rybolovlev, the fertilizer king, who purchased a derelict Florida estate from the future president at an extreme markup.)

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