Tea Party Group Updates FEC Complaint Alleging Illegal 'Scheme To Conceal' ID Of 'Mystery Donor'
The Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund and its powerful attorney Cleta Mitchell have refiled an updated complaint with the Federal Election Commission regarding an allegedly illegal bank loan a Mississippi bank gave to a Super PAC supporting the reelection of Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS).
Trustmark Bank, a nationally chartered bank, gave a $250,000 loan that it and the recipient—Mississippi Conservatives, a pro-Cochran Super PAC run by Haley Barbour’s nephew Henry Barbour—say is secured by a certificate of deposit belonging to a third party whose identity neither will reveal. But Mitchell and the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, in their initial FEC complaint, argued the loan is not collateralized, is not secured and has no repayment plan, according to documents the Super PAC filed with the FEC earlier this year.
Roll Call’s Kent Cooper, who first broke the story about the existence of the loan, wrote that “the most unusual aspect of the loan” from Trustmark to Cochran’s Super PAC “is there are no future contributions or future receipts pledged as collateral for the loan.”
“This may be the first reported unsecured bank loan to a Super PAC, especially to one that was only two weeks old,” Cooper wrote. “With no committee track record, and no collateral, it is hard to understand how this loan could have been made in the normal course of business. The committee has only repaid $20,000 of the loan, leaving $230,000 outstanding.”
Mitchell and Tea Party Patriots Cizens Fund chairman Jenny Beth Martin have alleged the loan, under the circumstances, comprises a campaign contribution, which the bank is not permitted to do under campaign finance rules.
They filed an FEC complaint last week about the matter, and in response to a series of news reports about it and comments in response to it from those alleged to be involved in the potentially illegal activity from Breitbart News, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger and others, they have filed an updated FEC complaint with more alleged violations.
“It has become increasingly clear that Respondents are deliberately refusing to disclose information required by law to be publicly reported to the FEC: namely the identity of any ‘guarantor’ or ‘endorser’ of a loan to a federal political committee,” they wrote in the updated complaint, citing federal law to argue that their complaint’s respondents have filed “four false FEC reports in an effort to hide the identity of the source of the $250,000 guarantor.”
The complaint cites Breitbart News and Clarion-Ledger stories noting how Mississippi Conservatives’ treasurer Brian Perry—one of the respondents of the FEC complaint—noted in an interview with the Jackson newspaper that “someone else,” not the Super PAC, owns the CD being used to supposedly secure the loan, and that Perry refused to identify who owns that CD.
Later in the updated complaint, Martin and Mitchell note that after the initial FEC complaint was filed last week, Mississippi Conservatives “again amended its 2014 April Quarterly FEC report to disclose, for the first time, that the ‘loan’ from Trustmark National Bank is ‘secured’ by a $250,000 certificate of deposit”—meaning, according to Martin and Mitchell, the organization’s previous four FEC filings in which it listed no security for the loan were false.
Combined with that, they argue, that because the respondents to the initial FEC complaint “still refuse to disclose on any of the filings the identity of the owner and/or source of the $250,000 certificate of deposit,” they are engaged in unlawful activity.
“It is illegal to fail to disclose any guarantor or endorser of a loan to a federal political committee,” Mitchell and Martin wrote. “Respondents are deliberately withholding that information. It is obvious that Respondents are engaged in a concerted effort to file false reports with the Federal Election Commission in furtherance of their scheme to conceal the identity of their mystery donor.”
Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund noted that the original facts of its initial complaint—“that the ‘loan’ from Trustmark National Bank does not comply with federal law requirements for permissible loans from a national bank to a political committee”—and asked that these new facts and allegations be added into the complaint. They also asked for a “full investigation into the source(s) of the funding of the collateral made available to the PAC and the willful refusal of Respondents to disclose the identity of the funding source(s).”
Spokespersons for Trustmark Bank and for the Cochran Super PAC have not responded to a request for comment on this updated FEC complaint.