Recent reports indicate that a political action committee closely aligned with former President Donald Trump may face criminal charges related to its funding of election activities in Wisconsin during the 2020 campaign. Investigators are examining whether the organization, which was led by Trump allies and contributed substantial sums to support his failed reelection bid, violated campaign finance laws by directing money to election groups in the crucial swing state.

The potential charges stem from a long-running investigation into fundraising practices by groups in Trump’s orbit. If filed, the case could shed further light on the aggressive and norm-busting techniques employed by the former president’s backers to influence the last presidential race.

Background on Save America PAC and Its Ties to Trump

Save America PAC is former President Donald Trump’s primary political action committee (PAC) and fundraising mechanism. According to documents obtained by CBS News, the PAC worked with Wisconsin state and local Republican officials to circumvent campaign finance laws and provide funds to Adam Steen, who challenged Wisconsin House Speaker Robin Vos in the 2022 Republican primary.

Source: X/Gage Skidmore

According to the Wisconsin Ethics Commission’s findings, Save America PAC donated $5,000 to three local Republican county parties on August 31 and September 1, 2022, with the intention that the funds be used to support Steen’s campaign.

Illegal Campaign Finance Scheme

The Wisconsin Ethics Commission is investigating Save America PAC, a fundraising organization aligned with former President Donald Trump, for allegedly violating state campaign finance laws during the 2022 election cycle.

Source: Samantha Madar

According to documents obtained by Newsweek, the commission found “probable cause” that Save America PAC engaged in an illegal scheme to circumvent donation limits and funnel at least $40,000 to support Adam Steen, a Republican primary challenger to Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.

Coordination with Local GOP Groups

According to the Wisconsin Ethics Commission’s report, Save America PAC allegedly coordinated with three local Republican County parties to funnel donations to Adam Steen’s campaign illegally. The commission found “probable cause” that the PAC directed the county parties to provide funds to Steen’s campaign, either through direct contributions or payments to vendors on his behalf.

Source: Morry Gash

Under Wisconsin law, individuals can only donate up to $1,000 to political candidates, but political parties have no limit. The alleged scheme involved individuals donating more than the limit to county parties, specifying the funds were for Steen, and the parties then passing the money to Steen.

Exceeding Contribution Limits

The commission alleges Save America PAC violated Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws by contributing $5,000 each to three county Republican parties on August 31 and September 1, 2022, with the intention that the money would ultimately benefit Steen’s campaign.

Source: YouTube

According to the commission’s findings, “Based on the discussions prior to the donations being made, it appears that the Respondent directed the county parties to use the money, directly or indirectly, for the benefit of Friends of Adam Steen. The county parties did so either through direct contributions to Friends of Adam Steen or through disbursements to vendors.”

Referral for Prosecution

The bipartisan Wisconsin Ethics Commission voted to refer the matter to local district attorneys, recommending that Save America PAC and relevant agents face felony charges. If prosecuted and convicted, they could face up to 42 months in prison and $10,000 in fines for each violation. The commission did not specify which individuals should face charges but referred broadly to Save America PAC’s “agents.”

Source: Facebook/Josh Kaul

Prosecutors have 60 days to decide whether to pursue charges. If they decline to prosecute, the Ethics Commission can request that Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul consider bringing charges against Save America PAC and others.

Legal Penalties

If Save America PAC and local GOP officials in Wisconsin are found guilty of the alleged campaign finance violations, they could face prison sentences of up to 42 months and fines up to $10,000. The severity of these potential penalties highlights the seriousness of the allegations against them.

Source: TODAY

Prosecutors must now determine whether there is enough evidence to charge those involved, and if charges are pursued, the legal process that follows could be lengthy. The referral of Save America PAC for prosecution is damaging to former President Trump’s political aspirations and credibility.

Impact on State Republican Politics

The scheme to illegally funnel money to Adam Steen’s campaign reflects the deep divisions within the Wisconsin Republican party. Trump and his supporters sought to unseat Assembly Speaker Robin Vos due to his refusal to overturn the 2020 election results, demonstrating Trump’s willingness to turn against leaders of his party who do not bend to his will.

Source: Morry Gash

Although Vos prevailed in the primary, the bitter infighting has damaged Republican unity in an important swing state. The referral of Save America PAC may exacerbate tensions and make compromise more difficult. Overall, it represents a serious blow to Trump’s political influence and aspirations.

Responses and Defenses From Save America PAC Leaders

The Save America PAC has denied all wrongdoing in response to the Wisconsin Ethics Commission’s findings. PAC representatives claim that they followed all applicable laws and that the commission’s allegations are baseless.

Source: lacrossetribune

They argue that the funds in question were legally donated to county Republican parties, who then chose to contribute those funds to Adam Steen’s campaign. As such, the PAC maintains that they did not directly donate to or coordinate with Steen’s campaign.

How This Fits Into Broader Debates Over Campaign Finance Laws

Campaign finance reform advocates argue that coordination between candidates, PACs, and political parties undermines limits on individual donations and disclosure requirements. They contend that coordination allows wealthy donors to circumvent restrictions by donating unlimited sums to PACs and parties that then support the donors’ preferred candidates.

Source: Midjourney

Reform proponents assert that this so-called “soft money” threatens the integrity of elections and policymaking. Opponents counter that most campaign finance regulations violate First Amendment rights to free speech and association. They maintain that as long as the sources and amounts of donations are disclosed, voters can judge candidates based on who supports them.

Seeking Transparency and Accountability

The ongoing investigation into the actions of the pro-Trump super PAC during the 2020 election in Wisconsin underscores the importance of transparency and accountability in political fundraising. While the legality of the PAC’s funding efforts remains undetermined, the case serves as an important reminder that all political groups must operate within the boundaries of the law.

Source: Jose Luis Villegas

The outcome of the investigation will likely influence how other third-party organizations approach fundraising and spending in future elections across the country. Regardless of one’s political affiliation, this situation highlights the need for impartial oversight and enforcement when it comes to campaign finance regulations at all levels of government.