February 20, 2018
WASHINGTON — The Common Cause watchdog group on Tuesday asked the Department of Justice and the Federal Election Commission to investigate a reported six-figure payment to a former Playboy model who has claimed an affair with President Trump.
In its complaints, the group said a $150,000 payment in August 2016 from the parent company of the National Enquirer to Karen McDougal was intended to "buy and bury" the story of her affair with Trump and amounted to an illegal, in-kind contribution to Trump's presidential campaign.

Corporations are banned from donating directly to federal candidates, and individuals could not donate more than $2,700 to a candidate during the 2016 campaign for the primary or general election.
In a story published Sunday, The New York Times said Trump's longtime lawyer Michael Cohen had received information from both American Media, the tabloid's owner, and McDougal's attorney in the summer of 2016 about the American Media payment to McDougal for the exclusive rights to her claims of an affair.
The tabloid did not publish her story, but The Wall Street Journal published an article about McDougal's claims in the days before the 2016 election. Last week, The New Yorker magazine published an interview with McDougal in which she claimed the contract with America Media "took my rights away."
Trump has denied the affair. Officials with American Media have said they could not corroborate McDougal's story of the affair. The company's chairman, David Pecker, has been friends with Trump for decades.
"Despite the level of hysteria and partisanship in American politics, we are surprised and disappointed by the unprecedented attack on a media company by an organization that purports to value free speech," American Media officials said in a statement Tuesday about the Common Cause complaint.
"Fortunately, the First Amendment does not play politics, and we look forward to the opportunity to respond to these meritless claims."
Alleged $150K payoff to Trump accuser, ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal: Was it illegal?
Cohen did not immediately respond to a request for comment from USA TODAY on Tuesday.
The complaint marks second time in recent weeks that Common Cause has sought a federal probe into an alleged payoff tied to Cohen, who now serves as Trump's personal lawyer.
More: President Trump's lawyer leaves a string of questions about the porn star and Trump
More: 'New Yorker' says handwritten note by former Playmate details affair with Trump
Last week, Cohen acknowledged that he helped arrange a $130,000 payment to another woman, former porn star Stephanie Clifford, who has claimed a 2006 affair with Trump. The payment to Clifford, who goes by the stage name Stormy Daniels, came just weeks before the 2016 general election.
"Transparency and the rule of law are vital to the health of our democracy and that is precisely why this case, like the Stormy Daniels hush money case, must be fully investigated," Karen Hobert Flynn, the president of Common Cause, said in a statement. "Americans have a right to know who is spending money to influence the election of the president of the United States."
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