The Federal Election Commission on Tuesday said it had fined the publisher of the National Enquirer for its role in a “hush-money” payment made to quiet a woman who alleged an affair with former President Donald Trump during the 2016 election cycle, according to documents made public by Common Cause, a watchdog group.
The $187,500 fine came after the commission found that American Media Inc., whose successor is A360 Media, LLC, made an illegal corporate campaign contribution by paying $150,000 during Trump’s first presidential campaign to prevent former Playboy model Karen McDougal from going public with her claims of an affair. Trump has denied the affair.
A spokesman for A360 Media did not immediately comment.
The FEC conciliation agreement with A360 Media – made public by Common Cause, which had filed a complaint about the McDougal payment – came after AMI signed a 2018 non-prosecution agreement with Manhattan federal prosecutors in which it admitted that its “principal purpose in entering into the agreement” to pay McDougal “was to suppress [McDougal’s] story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.”
The McDougal payment was orchestrated by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty in 2018 to campaign violations stemming from his role in two hush-money payments: the one AMI made to McDougal and a separate $130,000 payment he made to another woman, Stormy Daniels, who also alleged an affair that Trump denies.
Cohen has said in court that hush-money payments were made at Trump’s direction, and federal prosecutors said that in executing the payments, Cohen “acted in coordination with and at the direction of” Trump.
But while the original complaint by Common Cause was filed against Trump and his campaign committee, the FEC said in its letter to the watchdog that “[t]here were an insufficient number of votes to find reason to believe that the remaining respondents violated” election laws.
When the FEC’s vote on the matter became public in May, Trump praised the results, saying it closed the book on what he called the “phony case against me.”