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The publisher of the National Enquirer was fined $187,000 for directing payments to a former Playboy model who claimed she bedded Donald Trump years before his 2016 election.
Three years after the tabloid’s previous owner, American Media, admitted to federal prosecutors that it made the payments to aide the Trump campaign, the Federal Election Commission said the publisher “knowingly and willfully” violating campaign finance laws tied to the $150,000 it paid Karen McDougal to buy, and then not publish, her story.
The fine was handed down on May 17, 2021, according to Common Cause, a public advocacy group that sought information on the penalties, which it released the deal between the FEC and A360 Media on Tuesday.
In the letter to the group, the FEC stated that, “David J. Pecker and American Media Inc. knowingly and willfully violated” laws governing campaign contributions.
It rejected the American Media claim that it was protected by First Amendment rights to pursue a story citing the consent agreement Pecker and chief content officer Dylan Howard made with the US Justice Department admitting wrongdoing to avoid criminal prosecution.
Trump, who has denied McDougal’s claims, was not sanctioned in the McDougal case.
The FEC also failed to approve a staff recommendation that former President Trump be sanctioned for a $130,000 payment Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen has admitted making to porn star Stormy Daniels to hush up similar allegations leading up to the election.
Cohen, who spent a year in prison over the payment, says he made them at the behest of Trump, who has denied he was involved or that he had an affair with Daniels.
During the 2016 campaign, AMI and Pecker and Howard paid $150,000 to McDougal to purchase the rights to her claim that she had a consensual affair with Trump in 2006. The Enquirer later admitted it never had any intention of publicizing her story.
Pecker was a close friend of Trump. The Enquirer was one of only a handful of publications to endorse him from President in 2016.
“Trump masterminded this whole thing, and so far he’s walked,” Common Cause vice president of policy and litigation Paul Ryan said to CNBC.
“Everyone who carried out his dirty work here, Cohen and AMI, paid penalties and did prison time.”
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