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Man bought massages and nightclub dances using campaign donations: report

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A Texas man who allegedly devised a scheme to collect over $500,000 in campaign contributions for then-presidential candidates Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Sen. Bernie Sanders funneled the funds to his personal bank accounts according to court filings released by the US District Court of Western Texas on Tuesday.

In 2015, Kyle Prall allegedly began soliciting contributions through political committees with names like “Feel Bern,” “Trump Victory,” and “HC4President.” The political committees claimed that the funds would be spent in ways that supported the candidates — including costs to transport voters to the polls, training costs for volunteers at phone banks, and direct contributions to the candidates themselves.

Prall allegedly used the funds to pay for his salary and used debit cards registered by the political committees’ bank accounts to pay for numerous personal expenses, including:

  • $1,167: Two-night stay at a hotel in Miami Beach, Florida
  • $3,101: Food, bottle service, and hookah at a Miami nightclub
  • $1,470: Nightclub dances “performed by entertainers”
  • $1,073: Three-night stay at Texas resort
  • $728: Room service, mini-bar charges, deep-tissue massage, and pet cleaning fees at the Texas resort
  • $952: Flights in Florida for Prall and his girlfriend
  • $812: Flight to Belize in Central America

Through online advertisements on social-networking websites and search engines, Prall intentionally made an effort to “make them appear legitimate” in order to deceive donors, the Justice Department said.

The websites, such as “www.feelbern.org” and “hcforpresident.org” now appear to be defunct.

Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders.
REUTERS/David Ryder

“We are volunteers helping [Bernie Sanders] win the US Presidential election and usher in a new government for the people by helping raise awareness with voters,” Prall’s website said.

“The donations will be used primarily to charter buses for transportation to voting polls … This money will go directly to chartering buses and paying for fuel to transport voters …,” the website pledged.

Over $300,000 was raised in the alleged campaign for Sanders between December 2015 and July 2016. Less than $4,000 went toward “political causes,” none of which were used for transportation costs, according to the Justice Department.

The political committee that purportedly supported Clinton raised over $73,000, less than $1,100 of which went toward its stated causes.

“Trump Victory,” which was later renamed to “Make America Great,” raised over $165,000. The committee claimed it would channel the contributions “directly” to Trump and supportive organizations, but made no such donations.

Prall never intended for the funds to support the candidates, and instead, funneled it through sham limited-liability companies for “purely personal” expenses, according to the Justice Department. At the end of the election, most of the bank accounts were then closed.

Political committees are regulated by the Federal Election Commission, whose duties include overseeing campaign donations and expenditures that are over $200. Around 38 campaign finance analysts each review anywhere between 200-400 committees each year.

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