NYT Reporting Suggests That Cindy Yang Illegally Funneled Contributions Through Conduits to Reach $50,000 Threshold for Picture with Donald Trump

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The Republican National Committee promised an “evening reception with Donald J. Trump” last March at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla.


A contribution of $2,700 toward the president’s re-election would get you in the door. Two seats for dinner were on offer for $25,000. And there was a third option: for $50,000, dinner for two and a photo with Mr. Trump.


Cindy Yang was determined to get the photo.


But there was a hurdle. The invitation limited campaign contributions to $5,400 per person, so Ms. Yang, a Chinese immigrant who had set up a string of day spas in Florida and was active in groups backed by the Chinese government and Communist Party, needed others to chip in.
Over the weeks leading up to the event, at least nine people in Ms. Yang’s orbit, some of them with modest incomes, made donations at exactly $5,400. She ended up at the dinner….

One of the $5,400 political donations came from a 25-year old woman who gives facials at a beauty school, in a strip mall in nearby Palm Beach Gardens that is owned by Ms. Yang’s family. Another $5,400 came from a woman who says she worked as a receptionist at a massage parlor owned by Ms. Yang’s husband. A third gift of $5,400 came from an associate of Ms. Yang’s who had been charged in 2014 after a prostitution sting with practicing health care without a license, police records show.


The receptionist, Bingbing Peranio, listed as a “manager” on her disclosure, spoke with a reporter about her relationship with Ms. Yang. She described herself as a big fan of Mr. Trump’s and said Ms. Yang, a registered Republican, was seen as a leader among Asian-American Republicans in Florida.


Ms. Peranio said Ms. Yang had come to the spa where she worked at the time and helped fill out the check toward the president’s campaign. “I can’t say she was pushing me or not pushing me, but I worked there then,” she said, speaking at her home in Jupiter. “I was working there. I didn’t say no.”


Asked if Ms. Yang had reimbursed her for the $5,400, Ms. Peranio said, “I do not want to answer that question.” Reimbursing someone for a political contribution or contributing in the name of another person is illegal.

One question is why Yang did not simply write a $50,000 check, which would have been legal so long as it went to a joint fundraising committee (having the money spread out across various organizations. (In other words, only the first $5,400 would go to Trump campaign, and next dollars would go to other national or party committee accounts, or other candidates.)

Perhaps she did not know how JFCs work, or perhaps the money was being reimbursed by someone else (perhaps someone not entitled to make contributions as a foreign national). We will have to wait and see.

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