On Tuesday, The Daily Beast reported that former President Donald Trump's vague efforts to tease a 2024 presidential run, while not actually confirming or denying his plans, could be a violation of federal campaign finance laws.
"According to the FEC, a candidate must file official reports with the government after he or she decides to run and raises or spends more than $5,000," reported Roger Sollenberger. "However, the agency also provides a 'testing the waters' exemption. That allows potential candidates to raise and spend money while they weigh their decision, without having to file reports. That exemption, however, comes with an important caveat: that money used in this period is subject to federal campaign finance limits."
Brennan Center election reform deputy director Daniel Weiner said Trump's actions could overstep this exception. "'Testing the waters' is a legal concept intended to address a situation where there's genuine uncertainty," he said. "But you cannot just start raising money when you know for sure you are running and claim a free pass from campaign finance rules."
The problem for Trump is that in June, he claimed he has already made up his mind on whether to run — he's just keeping it secret, telling Fox News that he can't reveal it because of campaign finance laws. But that isn't how it works, noted the report: "The grace period ends, according to the FEC, 'once an individual begins to campaign or decides to become a candidate.' And on Sunday, Trump said he has decided."
Trump has repeatedly played fast and loose with campaign finance rules, going at least as far back as his former attorney's scheme to pay off adult film star Stormy Daniels to hush up a politically damaging affair. More recently, his campaign came under fire after it was revealed in April that it was using visual trickery to divert donors into a monthly recurring payment scheme without their knowledge.