FILE - This combination of file photo shows, from left, former President Donald Trump and Michael Cohen. A federal election watchdog fined the publisher of the National Enquirer $187,500 for a payment it made to keep under wraps a story about Trump’s alleged affair with a former Playboy model. (AP Photo/File)

FILE - This combination of file photo shows, from left, former President Donald Trump and Michael Cohen. A federal election watchdog fined the publisher of the National Enquirer $187,500 for a payment it made to keep under wraps a story about Trump’s alleged affair with a former Playboy model. (AP Photo/File)

National Enquirer owner fined for illegal Trump campaign aid

Watchdog finds publication squelched story of former Playboy model claiming affair with president

A federal election watchdog fined the publisher of the National Enquirer $187,500 for squelching the story of a former Playboy model who claimed she’d had an affair with former President Donald Trump.

The Federal Election Commission fined A360 Media, formerly known as American Media, for paying Karen McDougal $150,000 in August 2016, saying the payment was made to keep her story from becoming public before the presidential election.

The FEC said the publisher’s “payment to Karen McDougal to purchase a limited life story right combined with its decision not to publish the story, in consultation with an agent of Donald J. Trump and for the purpose of influencing the election, constituted a prohibited corporate in-kind contribution.”

Campaign finance laws prohibit corporations from cooperating with a campaign to affect an election.

The publisher didn’t immediately return a message left via its website. An emailed statement from a representative for David Pecker, who stepped down as CEO of the publisher in 2020, said that Pecker was not a party to the settlement and had not paid a fine.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan agreed in 2018 not to prosecute American Media in exchange for its cooperation in a campaign finance investigation. That probe led to a three-year prison term for Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who had urged the publisher to obtain the rights to McDougal’s story and promised to reimburse them for the payment.

Cohen served about a year of his sentence before he was released to home confinement as the coronavirus spread through prisons. Since then, he has spoken out frequently against Trump, and tweeted on Wednesday that he was willing to cooperate with federal prosecutors on any other prosecution of Trump or his associates.

The National Enquirer for years buried stories about Trump and some other celebrities with a “catch-and-kill” strategy of buying the rights to these stories and then not publishing them.

Common Cause, a public interest group which filed the complaint with the FEC in 2018, said in a statement that the fine was a “win for democracy” but said the agency’s “failure to hold former-President Trump and his campaign accountable for this violation lays bare the dysfunction at the FEC.” In its 2018 complaint, it also asked the agency to investigate Trump and his campaign. In a letter to Common Cause Tuesday, the agency said there was “an insufficient number of votes to find reason to believe that the remaining respondents violated the Federal Election Campaign Act “

Common Cause also noted that the FEC’s Republican commissioners had blocked enforcement against Trump for a payment to Stormy Daniels in a decision released last month. The FEC has three Republicans, two Democrats and an Independent commissioner.

Common Cause said that the FEC “has again shown itself incapable of fully enforcing the campaign finance laws passed by Congress.”

The National Enquirer and A360 Media are owned by hedge fund Chatham Asset Management. A Chatham representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment. A 2019 deal that would have sold the Enquirer to the former head of the airport newsstand company Hudson News was not completed.

—Tali Arbel, The Associated Press

RELATED: Where the investigations related to President Trump stand

Donald TrumpMedia industry

Just Posted

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Local youth vaccination clinics underway

Pfizer vaccine will be used

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. Northern Health confirmed it has the lowest vaccination rates amongst the province’s five regional health authorities. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Vaccination rates in Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake, Fort St James well below provincial average

COVID-19 immunization clinics for youth 12+ coming up in Fort St. James

Fort St. James Fire Department Captain Gary Soles (left), Fire Chief Ryan McVey (centre) and Captain John Bennison show off a new set of ‘jaws of life’ cutters. (Brooke Eschuk, District of Fort St. James photo)
Fort St. James Fire Department receives life-saving rescue tool

New set of ‘jaws-of-life’ cutters arrived last month

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

B.C. Premier John Horgan leaves his office for a news conference in the legislature rose garden, June 3, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. premier roasted for office budget, taxing COVID-19 benefits

Youth addiction law that triggered election hasn’t appeared

Most Read