No campaign finance laws were violated by contacts between a Ukrainian-American consultant and Democrats connected to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, federal election regulators determined.
The Federal Election Commission voted 4-2 to dismiss allegations that Ukraine’s links to the Clinton campaign violated laws against foreign influence in U.S. elections, according to an FEC document released Wednesday. The commissioners concluded that advice provided by consultant Alexandra Chalupa to the Ukrainian government did not yield a “thing of value” under federal campaign finance law.
The vote closed one of several cases lingering from the 2016 presidential election, which also included charges that Donald Trump was aided by Russia. The ties between Trump and Russia were investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who concluded Trump benefited from Russian action but that no criminal charges should be brought against Trump or his campaign.
Federal law bars foreign governments and foreign nationals from providing anything valuable to influence U.S. elections, but what counts as valuable, besides money, has long been debated by the FEC and others.
This case hinged on advice provided to Ukrainians by Chalupa, who did consulting work for the Democratic National Committee and had extensive ties to Ukrainians opposed to Russian influence in that country. Chalupa advised the Ukrainians to emphasize the consulting work done by Paul Manafort for pro-Russian forces in Ukraine. At the time, Manafort had been named as Donald Trump’s campaign manager.
Chalupa advised in an email cited by FEC investigators that Trump could be discredited by highlighting “Manafort’s meddling in Ukraine over the past couple of decades.” The FEC general counsel’s office concluded her actions amounted to soliciting an illegal foreign contribution to aid Clinton and the Democrats. But Democratic Commissioner Elllen Weintraub said the FEC investigation of the matter relied on tainted testimony from a Russian agent, Andrii Telizhenko.
An unusual coalition of three Republican commissioners and Weintraub voted to dismiss allegations against Chalupa and the Democratic National Committee. Two commissioners recommended by Democrats, Chairwoman Shana Broussard and Steven Walther, voted to follow the recommendation of staff attorneys to find probable cause the law was violated.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kenneth P. Doyle in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org