Trump appointed counsel John Tate, who pardoned him for campaign finance offenses

Former President Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign is once again spitting on campaign finance laws, this time by hiring a strategist who was convicted of crimes related to a political bribery scheme — which Trump later pardoned.

According to new disclosures filed over the weekend, Trump’s political operation has hired John Tate via his company, JFT Consulting, Inc. JFT received about $13,000 for “political strategy consulting” in June — a payment of $2,903 on June 6, followed by a flat payment of $10,000 at the end of the month.

In 2016, a jury convicted Tate of campaign finance offenses related to a bribery scheme in support of the then House member’s 2012 presidential campaign. Ron Paul (R-TX). Tate, a former senior employee of Paul’s, worked on the scheme along with fellow Paul associates Jesse Benton and Dimitri Kesari, both of whom were also convicted. Trump pardoned Tate and Benton in December 2020, but did not pardon Kisari.

The plot was exposed in late 2011, at the start of Paul’s second presidential bid. With the Iowa caucus approaching, the staff arranged a $73,000 bonus for then-Iowa Sen. Kent Sorenson, the state chair for former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann’s campaign. In return, Sorenson resigned from Bachmann’s operation and threw his support behind Paul.

In the end, the three employees were convicted of conspiracy, obstruction, and making false statements before the Federal Election Commission. Of the three, only Kassari served time in prison. Tate was given six months’ house arrest and two years’ probation, as did Benton. Sorenson pleaded guilty two years before Tate’s conviction, and admitted to falsifying campaign reporting and obstruction of justice. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison.

Both Tate and Benton – who married one of Paul’s granddaughters – received full pardons from Trump. Sorenson and Kesari, who went to jail, did not.

Notably, the Tate campaign funding violation resembles a bogus payment scheme that put the Trump campaign in the headlines at the time of the pardon.

Tate and his colleagues channeled campaign funds to Sorenson through a sub-seller, thus concealing the true recipient of the funds. Observers noted that the structure appeared similar to the Trump campaign’s use of American Made Media, a shell company withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in 2020 campaign expenses. From this point of view, the pardon appears to send “A very specific messageAbout disclosure laws.

The pardon had the support of Paul’s son, Trump ally Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), as well as former Federal Election Commission chairman Lee Goodman, who has criticized the legal merit of the conviction, according to a statement from the White House.

“Both Mr. Tate and Mr. Benton were convicted on the basis of indirect campaign payments to a senator,” the statement read. “According to Mr. Goodman, the reporting law that was violated was neither clear nor well-established at the time. Everyone received home confinement for 6 months and 2 years probation.”

However, when the Goodman FEC took on the case in 2016, the commissioners unanimously found that Paul’s campaign likely violated the law and ordered a full investigation, The Daily Beast reported last year. However, in 2022, with Goodman long gone and a pardon issued, the commissioners vote along party lines to dismiss the case.

Less than a year after his pardon, Jesse Benton, one of Tate’s co-conspirators, has been charged again with campaign finance offenses — funneling Russian funds to Trump’s 2016 campaign. A jury convicted him last November. (Benton carried out this scheme while indicted in the bribery case.)

But Tate returned to the political arena. Over the past two years, his company, JFT Consulting, has appeared on four expense reports, and the bulk of the money has been related to the Rand Paul operation. The June payment was the first the company has received from the Trump campaign.

A Trump spokesperson did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment for this article.

Tate isn’t the only adviser the Trump campaign is paying through a firm. But Tate is at least publicly associated with his name. (Virginia business records show that JFT Consulting has been “inactive” since November for failing to file its annual report.)

The entire arrangement is noteworthy because Special Counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into the events surrounding the Jan. 6 attack has focused on Trump’s practice of bogus payments. in february, New York times It reported that Smith’s team called “a large group” of Trump salesmen, with questions that indicated they were interested “whether some entity was being used to conceal who was being paid or if the payments were for real services rendered.”

According to the campaign’s latest filing, recent consulting fees have gone to no less than 21 companies masking the name of the eventual recipient. Many of them did not appear in FEC filings prior to working with Trump, and some are completely untraceable. For the sake of transparency, here’s what can be gleaned about those entities from business records and news reports.

The Iowa-based Higher Ground Strategies takes $15,000 a month from the campaign, totaling $208,000 from Trump’s political equities since he left office. But the company is hidden behind the company registrar. The company’s name was mentioned in a Jan. 6 select panel interview with 2020 Trump campaign attorney Sean Dolman, who told investigators “I know them” but “I don’t know who’s running them.”

Another $7,500 per month went to K Consulting, LLC, an untraceable company in the same state that never appeared in other FEC reports. Concharty Advisors, Virginia, received $18,000 from the campaign in both April and June, but the real owner of the company cannot be traced through government business filings, and it does not appear in other FEC reports. Another newly registered but untraceable company in Wyoming, Red Compass, LLC, banked $20,000 a month for political strategy consulting.

Another shadowy entity, called the Avenir Group, had a total of about $20,000 in the Washington, D.C. address, even though that company had not appeared in FEC filings before.

A total of $25,000 went to Skyway Strategies, an entity that Florida records is associated with Nicholas Erickson at Lakewood Ranch and has not previously appeared in FEC data. The campaign pays $15,000 a month to another Florida company called “KMP Direct, LLC,” which is affiliated with state records communications professional Kelly Parker. Neither Erickson nor Parker could be directly linked to Trump campaign operations.

Other companies are a bit more transparent. Veritas LLC, based in Indiana, raised $5,000 for research consulting and appears to be connected to former Heritage Foundation intern Isaac Bock in Indiana. Trump communications advisor Dylan Johnson makes $6,666 a month through his Missouri firm, The Octavian Group. The 1789 Project LLC, which is affiliated with Indiana filings with conservative strategist Helena Hirsch, receives a flat rate of $5,500 per month.

Some of Trump’s top staffers are not on the payroll, choosing instead to receive indirect payments through other entities they control.

Top spokesperson Stephen Cheung earned $130,000 this quarter, via his Delaware company, Solgence LLC. An entity called Rushmore Ventures — which Florida Business Records has linked to Glenn Waldman, father-in-law of Stephen Miller’s wife, Katie Miller — was raising $13,750 a month. Former White House aide Andrew Nixon earned $4,188 through his company, Searchlight Strategies.

The campaign is also allocating $15,000 per month to Gabriel Strategies, a company registered under the name of 2020 Trump speechwriter Robert Gabriel. According to the Jan. 6 commission, Gabriel specifically told the speechwriters to “reintroduce the previously removed incendiary lines about Vice President Pence into the speech.” Since Trump left office, Gabriel Strategies has received about $265,000 in consulting fees and travel compensation, initially through the Trump-led Save America PAC.

Prominent campaign attorney Boris Epstein is cashing a $20,000 monthly check for communications and legal advice through his firm, Georgetown Advisory. William Russell, the former White House aide who was subpoenaed by Justice Department prosecutors last September in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, earned $12,000 a month through his firm, Magnolia Management, plus about $3,500 to work on the campaign advance team. And Andrew Surabian, a close adviser to Donald Trump Jr., was making $10,000 a month through his firm, Belmont Strategies.

Some of the largest payments went to Advancing Strategies, a company registered with chief campaign aide Chris Lackivita. The campaign reported paying nearly $260,000 to that company over the past three months.

As noted by the new employees. Former New Hampshire chief Stefan Stepanek earned $12,500 a month plus travel costs through his company, Liberty Tree, which does not appear in other FEC reports. Senior assistant Susie Wiles earned $125,000 through her company, Right Coast Strategies, and didn’t show up on the payroll.

While these aides aren’t double entenders, Dan Scavino, Trump’s longtime social media director, is. His company, Hudson Digital LLC, continues to receive her monthly premiums of $20,000 in addition to Scavino’s monthly salary of $15,400.

Hudson Digital also noted in the commission’s Jan. 6 final report that no information or mention of the company could be found online. FEC records show that no other political committee paid this entity. She has received more than $525,000 since Trump left office, according to the Federal Election Commission.

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