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” violated 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 released information on the deal between the FEC and A360 Media on Tuesday.  

Playboy bunny Karen McDougal
American Media made the payments to hush up a negative story about Trump ahead of his 2016 campaign, officials said.
SplashNews.com

A360 Media, the successor company to American Media, agreed to pay the fine without admitting to the FEC’s finding that, “David J. Pecker and American Media Inc. knowingly and willfully violated” laws governing campaign contributions.

The FEC also rejected the American Media claim that it was protected by First Amendment rights to pursue a story citing the non prosecution agreement Pecker and chief content officer Dylan Howard made with the US Justice Department admitting wrongdoing to avoid criminal prosecution.

Porn star Stormy Daniels smiles
Election officials did not fine Trump for payments his former lawyer made to porn star Stormy Daniels
REUTERS

The Federal Election Commission also told Howard’s attorney on June 1 that “there were an insufficient number of votes to find reason to believe your client may have violated the [Federal Election Campaign] Act and Commission regulations” and the case was closed.

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.

Ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen outside court.
Ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen says he was directed to make the payments to Stormy Daniels by Trump.
AP

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, who stepped down as CEO of American Media in August 2020 but remains an “executive advisor” to its successor A360Media was a close friend of Trump. The Enquirer was one of only a handful of publications to endorse him for 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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