American Media Inc., now known as A360 Media LLC, The National Enquirer‘s parent company, is being fined $187,500 by the Federal Election Commission for its role in suppressing the 2016 story about Donald Trump’s affair with former playboy model Karen McDougal. The company has agreed to the fine.

The FEC claims that the publishing firm “knowingly and willfully” violated campaign finance laws by paying $150,000 for McDougal’s story concerning her affair with Trump – which lasted from 2006 and 2007 – and then refusing to publish it. American Media Inc. admitted that the “principal purpose in entering into the agreement” to pay McDougal “was to suppress [McDougal’s] story so as to prevent it from influencing the election” in a signed 2018 non-prosecution agreement with Manhattan federal prosecutors. Micheal Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, admitted to being involved in McDougal case, and secretly recorded a clip of Trump planning the payments to the formed playboy model.

This story comes after the controversial CEO of American Media Inc. and longtime friend of Trump, David Pecker, stepped down from his role in August 2020. The National Enquirer was one of the few publications to publicly back Trump during his 2016 election campaign.

Common Cause, a public interest group who filed the complaint with the FEC in 2018, said 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.”

Common Cause went on to highlight that Trump had never been held accountable for his role in the McDougal payoff, just as he hadn’t been for a similar payment to the adult-film actress Stormy Daniels. “Michael Cohen went to prison for these violations. AMI has been fined. But the former president has not yet been held accountable,” stated Common Cause. 

The agency considered action against Trump and the Trump Organization, but was met with resistance from the Republican appointees who concluded “that pursuing these matters further was not the best use of agency resources.”

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