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

FILE - Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind 'Amour speaks at a press conference following an NHL hockey game against the Dallas Stars in Raleigh, N.C., in this Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019, file photo. The Carolina Hurricanes have reached a three-year contract extension with coach Rod Brind’Amour after three straight playoff appearances. The Hurricanes announced the agreement Thursday, June 17, 2021, a little more than a week after the Hurricanes were eliminated by reigning Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay in the second round. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker, File)
Campbell River’s Brind’Amour named NHL coach of the year

Former Stanley Cup winner celebrates honour by re-signing with the Carolina Hurricanes

Janice Coady, left, Aimee Chalifoux and Linda Milford at a vigil for Amy Watts on Wednesday, June 16, outside Nanaimo city hall. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
‘We need to do better,’ says mother of woman killed in Nanaimo

Vigil held for former outreach worker Amy Watts, whose body was found downtown June 3

An old growth cedar stands in a cut-block within the Caycuse Valley. More than 100 prominent Canadians, have signed an open letter calling for the immediate protection of all remaining old-growth forests in B.C. (Submitted)
Brian Mulroney and Greta Thunberg among 100 celebrities pushing to save B.C. old growth

List includes Indigenous leaders, scientists, authors, Oscar winners

BC Housing has brought in sanitation trailers to the former Mount Tolmie Hospital site so its current residents can access clean water, showers, sinks and toilets after a collapsed sewer pipe impacted water service to the building. (Google Streetview)
Mount Tolmie Hospital homelessness shelter using sanitation trailers after pipe collapse

Travelodge shelter residents faced intermittent hot water supply in late May, early June

Gerry Vowles (left), Michael Cook, and Dave Sinclair were awarded “Dominion Command Presidential Citations” June 17 in Cloverdale. The rare awards were given out for “exemplary service to the Legion.” (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Three B.C. legionnaires awarded ‘Presidential Citations’

Ceremony took place in Cloverdale June 17

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

Wild rabbits are all over Chilliwack, but people often think they’re someone’s lost pet and try to ‘save’ them. But the owner of Chilliwack’s Reptile Room says good intentions can have bad consequences for wild animals. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Owner of Chilliwack’s Reptile Room asks people to leave wild animals in the wild

Amber Quiring says people who think they’re helping are actually doing more harm than good

Syringes prepared with Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine are seen at a vaccination site in Long Beach, Calif., Friday, March 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Vaccine first doses now available for walk-ins on Vancouver Island

People aged 18+ can walk in for their first COVID-19 vaccine

Thousands of protesters make their way through the downtown core during a Black Lives Matter protest in Ottawa, Friday June 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
MPs’ study of systemic racism in policing concludes RCMP needs new model

Chair of the House public safety committee says it’s time for a reckoning on ‘quasi-military’ structure

A case filled with packages of boneless chicken breasts is shown in a grocery store Sunday, May 10, 2020, in southeast Denver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-David Zalubowski
One million chickens euthanized during labour dispute at Quebec slaughterhouse

Premier says waste amounts to 13 per cent of the province’s chicken production thrown in the garbage

Premier of Manitoba Brian Pallister speaks at a news conference at the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Lipnowski
Provincial leaders want more federal money for health care, plan to meet in fall

Premiers ask Ottawa to increase its share of overall health spending to 35 per cent from 22 per cent

A section of the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies is seen west of Cochrane, Alta., Thursday, June 17, 2021. A joint federal-provincial review has denied an application for an open-pit coal mine in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, saying its impacts on the environment and Indigenous rights aren’t worth the economic benefits it would bring. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Panel says Grassy Mountain coal mine in Alberta Rockies not in public interest

Public hearings on the project in southern Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass region were held last fall

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on Friday, February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
U.S. border restrictions to remain in place until at least July 21

Safety minister says Canada, U.S. extending restrictions on non-essential international travel

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

Most Read