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How We Found a Pro-Trump Group Blew Past Campaign Finance Laws

Last week, ProPublica’s Derek Willis was combing through detailed campaign finance data, when something caught his eye: A significant funder to one of President-elect Donald Trump’s fundraising efforts had failed to disclose its donors before Election Day, even though the law requires it. Willis and his colleague Robert Faturechi began digging into the group, America Comes First, and published their story on Friday. We spoke to Faturechi about what they found and the larger story it suggests.

(Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

After America Comes First popped up on their radar, Faturechi and Willis got to work and found that the top contributor to the group scored face time with the president-elect…

We started digging into who was involved. I noticed that while federal regulators were waiting for any sort of disclosure, two days after the election the group posted a photo that showed that one of the group’s top officials, David Schamens, had an in-person meeting with President-elect Trump. I found that very interesting that they had that kind of sway.

Schamens told that the reporters it was “not a big deal” that the group failed to file before Election Day…

As a reporter, I think my role is to give him his say, to allow him to say, “It’s not a big deal,” because there are certainly folks out there who might agree with him. Then our job is to explain to the reader why this kind of disclosure is crucial. It allows voters to see who is trying to influence the election. It also allows the public to effectively vet what a candidate’s conflicts of interest might be after he or she is elected.

It’s not just this PAC…

What we’ve seen, at least anecdotally, is that political groups and their consultants have become increasingly emboldened in what they’re willing to try to get away with. This might be a case that’s illustrative of that. I think this is also a great example of the practical effects of our institutions sort of breaking down.

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Portrait of Kate Brown

Kate Brown

Kate Brown is ProPublica’s office and newsroom assistant. She also produces ProPublica’s weekly podcast.

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