Donald Trump Escapes FEC Punishment Over Paid Actors at Presidential Announcement

His campaign would later admit paying $12,000, but given the "modest" amount, the FEC is exercising discretion and dismissing a complaint he violated reporting rules.

As Donald Trump gets sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, the Federal Election Commission has closed the chapter on an investigation on how his presidential campaign started.

On June 16, 2015, Trump announced he was running for the highest office. As first detailed in The Hollywood Reporter, the campaign hired actors to cheer him on. That drew public attention, although it was later overshadowed by his harsh pronouncement of Mexicans as "rapists." At the time, Trump's then campaign manager Corey Lewandowski denied paying anyone to attend the event and said that he had never heard of Extra Mile or Gotham Government Relations, the two companies that THR reported were involved in putting out a casting call for people to attend the event.

A few months later, with no disclosures related to this, the American Democracy Legal Fund filed a complaint, alleging that Trump's campaign violated the reporting provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971.

Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., then admitted paying Gotham $12,000 on Oct. 8, 2015. Gotham reported to the FCC it hired Extra Mile as a subcontractor to provide support at Trump's announcement. Still, this doesn't settle the issue because of the allegation that Trump may have accepted prohibited or excessive contributions from the two companies involved with hiring the actors.

According to a FEC general counsel's report in March 2016, made public Thursday, it was "clear" that Trump's campaign "did not pay Gotham for its services for almost four months after the event, and did not report the transaction for more than seven months after the event. Thus, Gotham's apparent extension of credit to the Committee for the services rendered at the June candidacy announcement may constitute an excessive or prohibited contribution, and the Committee failed to report the amount it owed Gotham as a debt."

"However," the report continued, "because of the seemingly modest amount at issue, we recommend that the Commission exercise its prosecutorial discretion and dismiss the allegation ..."

That's just what the FEC has done, quietly announcing its decision to close the file on the complaint on the eve of Trump's inauguration.