• By The Financial District

TRUMP CAMPAIGN USING MURKY SHELL FIRMS TO HIDE AD SPENDING

The Trump campaign has spent tens of millions of dollars on Facebook ads, but has not reported any of that spending to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), records show, Roger Sollenberger wrote for Salon on August 13, 2020. 

Along with a number of affiliated committees, the campaign appears to be funneling payments to Facebook through shell companies. The end result is that the public, and the government, can’t tell for sure who is paying for what. The scheme also hides the final destination of funds — including how much might be siphoned off in commissions, kickbacks and other hidden distributions. This is particularly relevant after reports that the in 2016 the Trump campaign paid $94 million to a company owned by Brad Parscale, at the time director of the campaign’s digital operations. 


The discrepancies emerge in a comparison of public data from Facebook’s advertising library and government data made available through the FEC website. Facebook data includes the FEC-mandated “disclaimers” that reveal who officially sponsors and pays for ads, but FEC data often does not reflect the same purchases by the same groups. 


“For instance, public data from Facebook lists the Trump campaign as the ultimate sponsor of more than $20 million in ads on the official Donald Trump page since May 2018. However, the campaign did not report any Facebook payments to the FEC in that time,” Sollenberger added.


The same data attributes an additional $35 million worth of Trump ads to the Trump Make America Great Again (TMAGA) committee, a joint fundraising vehicle shared between the campaign and the Republican National Committee. In that same timeframe, however, TMAGA told the government that it paid Facebook about $5,800 in total. All told, official Trump committees have spent more than $61 million on Facebook page ads since May 2018. Almost none of that appears in government records, Sollenberger concluded.