Former President Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign is flouting campaign finance laws, this time by hiring a strategist convicted of crimes related to a political bribery scheme — and later pardoned by Trump.
According to new exposed filing over the weekend, Trump’s political operation hired John Tate through his company, JFT Consulting, Inc. JFT received about $13,000 for “political strategy consulting” in June – a $2,903 installment on June 6, followed by a flat $10,000 at the end of the month.
In 2016, a jury convicted Tate of campaign finance crimes related to a bribery scheme to support the 2012 presidential campaign of Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). Tate, a former close associate of Paul’s, worked the scheme with Paul’s fellow aides Jesse Benton and Dimitri Kesari, both of whom were also found guilty. Trump pardoned Tate and Benton in December 2020, but not Kesari.
The story came to light in late 2011, at the start of Paul’s second presidential bid. As the critical Iowa caucus drew to a close, staff members arranged a payment of $73,000 to Iowa state Senator Kent Sorenson, the state chairman of former Minnesota Representative Michelle Bachmann’s campaign. In return, Sorenson resigned from Bachmann’s operation and threw his support behind Paul.
All three staff members were eventually convicted on charges of conspiracy, obstruction, and making false statements to the Federal Election Commission. Of the three, however, only Kesari served prison time; Tate received six months of house arrest and two years of probation, as did Benton. Sorenson pleaded guilty two years before Tate’s conviction, admitting to falsifying campaign reports and obstructing justice. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison.
Tate and Benton – who married one of Paul’s granddaughters – received full pardons from Trump. Sorenson and Kesari, the two who went to jail, did not.
Notably, the Tate campaign finance breach resembled a shell payment scheme that made headlines for the Trump campaign at the time of the pardon.
Tate and his co-conspirators funneled campaign funds to Sorenson through a subcontractor, concealing the true recipient of the funds. Observers noticed that the structure appeared similar to the Trump campaign’s use of American Made Media, a shell company that hid hundreds of millions of dollars in 2020 campaign expenses. The pardons, in that opinion, appeared to “a very specific message” under disclosure laws.
The pardons were supported by Paul’s son, Trump ally Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), as well as former FEC chairman Lee Goodman, criticized the legal merits of the conviction, according to the White House. statement.
“Both Mr. Tate and Mr. Benton were convicted based on indirect campaign payments to a state Senator,” the statement said. “According to Mr Goodman, the reported law that was breached was vague and not well established at the time. Each received 6 months of home confinement and 2 years of probation.”
However, when Goodman’s FEC took on the case in 2016, the commissioners unanimously found that Paul’s campaign likely broke the law and ordered a full investigation, The Daily Beast reported last year. However, in 2022, with Goodman long gone and the pardons issued, the commissioners voted in a partisan fashion to dismiss the case.
Less than a year after his pardon, one of Tate’s co-conspirators, Jesse Benton indicted again for campaign finance crimes — funneling Russian money to Trump’s 2016 campaign. A jury convicted last November. (Benton carried out that scheme while under indictment in the bribery case.)
But Tate has plunged back into the political arena. In the last two years his company, JFT Consulting, has appeared in four expense reports, with most of the money tied to the Rand Paul operation. The June payments were the first the company received from the Trump campaign.
A Trump spokesman did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment for this article.
Tate is far from the only consultant being paid by the Trump campaign through a company. But at least Tate’s company is openly associated with his name. (Virginia business records show that JFT Consulting has been “inactive” since November due to failure to file its annual report.)
The entire settlement is significant because Special Counsel Jack Smith’s investigation focused on the events surrounding the January 6 attack on Trump’s practice of shell payments. In February, The New York Times reported that Smith’s team hired a “large series” of Trump vendors, with questions that indicated they were interested “whether some entities were used to hide who was being paid or whether the payments were for real services rendered.” “
According to the campaign’s most recent filing, consulting fees have recently gone to at least 21 companies that hide the name of the ultimate recipient. Many of them never appeared in FEC filings before they worked for Trump, and some are not traceable at all. For the sake of transparency, here’s what can be found about those entities from business records and news reports.
Iowa-based High Ground Strategies takes $15,000 a month from the campaign, with a total haul of $208,000 from Trump’s political entities since he left office. But the company is hiding behind a corporate registrar. The name of the firm came up in a select committee on January 6 an interview along with Trump 2020 campaign attorney Sean Dollman, who told investigators “I know them” but “I don’t know who runs them.”
Another $7,500 per month has gone to K Consulting, LLC, an untraceable company in the same state, which never appears in other FEC reports. a Virginia company Concharty Consultants received $18,000 from the campaign in April and June, but the company’s true owner cannot be traced through state business filings, and does not appear in other FEC reports. Another new program but cannot be discovered Wyoming The company, Red Compass, LLC, is banking $20,000 a month for political strategy consulting.
A total of about $20,000 was paid to another obscure entity, called Avenir Group, with an address in Washington, DC, although that company had not previously appeared in FEC filings.
A total of $25,000 has gone to Skyway Strategies, an entity that records Florida linked to Nicholas Erickson in Lakewood Ranch and has never appeared in previous FEC statements. The campaign pays $15,000 a month to another Florida company called “KMP Direct, LLC,” records related to a communications professional say. Kelley Parker. Neither Erickson nor Parker can be directly tied to Trump campaign operations.
Other firms are a little more transparent. Veritas LLC, based in Indiana, raised $5,000 for research consulting, and appears to be connected to a former Isaac Bock Heritage Foundation intern in Indiana. Trump’s communications adviser, Dylan Johnson, gets $6,666 a month through it his Missouri company, The Octavian Group. And 1789 Project LLC, which links filings with the state of Indiana to a conservative strategist Helena Hirschreceiving a steady $5,500 per month.
Some of Trump’s top staff are not on the payroll, choosing instead to take indirect payments through other entities they control.
Top spokesperson Steven Cheung received $130,000 this quarter, through his share A Delaware company, Solgence LLC. An entity called Rushmore Ventures – a Florida business records connect with Glenn Waldman, the Father of Stephen Miller’s wife, Katie Miller-has increased by $13,750 per month. Former White House associate Andrew Nixon he took his $4,188 through his company, Searchlight Strategies.
The campaign also forks over $15,000 monthly to Gabriel Strategies, a company registered to Trump 2020 speechwriter Robert Gabriel. According to the committee Jan. 6, Gabriel specifically told speechwriters to “insert into the speech the lines of fire that have previously been removed about Vice President Pence.” Since Trump left office, Gabriel Strategies has received about $265,000 in consulting fees and travel reimbursement, initially through Trump’s Save America leadership PAC.
Campaign lawyer Boris Epshteyn is cashing a $20,000 monthly check for communications and legal consulting through his firm, Georgetown Advisory. Former White House aide William Russell, who was subpoenaed by Justice Department prosecutors last September regarding the January 6 attack, took in $12,000 a month through his company, Magnolia Management, as well as about $3,500 for work on the campaign’s advance staff. And Andrew Surabian, a close adviser to Donald Trump Jr, is getting $10,000 a month through his firm, Belmont Strategies.
Some of the largest payments went to Advancing Strategies, a company registered with senior campaign aide Chris LaCivita. The campaign reported paying that firm nearly $260,000 in the past three months.
New hires have also been noted. Stephan Stepanekformer New Hampshire GOP state chairman, paid $12,500 a month plus travel expenses through his company, Liberty Tree, which does not appear in other FEC reports. And senior assistant Susie Wiles raked in $125,000 through her firm, Right Coast Strategiesand it does not appear on the payroll.
While those aides aren’t double-dipping, Dan Scavino is Trump’s longtime social media manager. His firm, Hudson Digital LLC, continues to receive his $20,000 monthly installments in addition to Scavino’s $15,400 monthly pay check.
Hudson Digital was also cited in the committee’s final January 6 report, which noted that no information or reference to the company could be found online. FEC records show that no other political committee has ever paid that entity. He has received more than $525,000 since Trump left office, according to the FEC.