A watchdog group is urging the Federal Election Commission to investigate the Democratic National Committee and a former consultant for allegedly soliciting illegal contributions from the Ukrainian government by seeking information about then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) filed a complaint with the FEC on Wednesday, accusing the DNC and former Ukrainian-American consultant Alexandra Chalupa of breaking federal law.
Chalupa was brought into the broader debate regarding Russia's 2016 election meddling and potential collusion with the Trump campaign when Politico published a report months ago revealing she met with officials in the Ukrainian Embassy last year.
According to FACT’s complaint, a political officer in the Ukrainian Embassy was instructed to help Chalupa conduct opposition research on Trump’s campaign -- specifically, to help expose ties between Manafort and Russia.
The Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, D.C., did not respond to Fox News' request for comment.
FACT alleged that Chalupa received improper “in-kind contributions” -- which they define as “anything of value, including information and leads, the fruits of paid research, or similar investigatory activity to a political committee” -- regarding Manafort while employed by the DNC.
“Since Chalupa was being paid by the DNC at the time of the collusion, this constitutes an illegal, in-kind contribution,” FACT said in a statement, noting federal law "prohibits accepting or receiving anything of value from foreign nationals."
FEC guidelines are broad regarding what can be considered an in-kind contribution but list advertising, print and consultant services, and more.
The FACT complaint also notes that the “DNC subsequently acknowledged that they had knowledge of the research” obtained by Chalupa on behalf of Ukrainian officials.
"We can tell that at, one point, someone from the DNC acknowledged the information, though they denied using it," FACT's general counsel, Kendra Arnold, told Fox News. "We’re hopeful the FEC does a full investigation and gets to the bottom of what happened here."
The FEC told Fox News they have not yet received FACT’s complaint.
Both Chalupa and the DNC have downplayed their involvement and pushed back against the allegations regarding collusion with the Ukrainian government.
Chalupa declined to comment for this article.
A DNC official told Fox News that Chalupa did not represent the DNC during her interactions with the Ukrainian embassy related to allegations of opposition research, and said the DNC did not receive research from the Ukrainian government either.
“The DNC’s claim that they did not use the information given to them by Ukrainian government official is preposterous and a bad excuse for breaking the law,” Matthew Whitaker, FACT’s executive director, told Fox News. “The bottom line is a paid member of the DNC went to greath lengths to actively seek out opposition research on the Trump campaign from a foreign government and for that they should be held accountable.”
The meeting resurfaced in the news last month, when President Trump began questioning why the Justice Department was not investigating Ukrainian efforts to “sabotage” his campaign amid the special counsel probe.
“If there’s been any evidence of collusion in 2016 actually happening, it would have been between the DNC and the Ukrainian government,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said last month.
But the DNC slammed the accusations and said the White House was pushing a “narrative” to “distract from the Trump campaign’s willingness to work with a hostile foreign government to interfere in our election.”
“No one is buying it,” a DNC spokeswoman told Fox News. “Trump and some of his family watched for months as the Kremlin attacked our democracy, and did nothing but encourage and celebrate their efforts.”
Also last month, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, penned a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, asking about the extent to which Chalupa may have worked with Ukrainian officials to hurt the Trump campaign. Grassley also questioned whether the Justice Department was investigating Chalupa.
Last month, Chalupa’s attorney told Fox News the allegations were “nothing more than misdirection” from the Russia investigation.
“Believe me, if there was anything to this Ukraine red herring, we would’ve heard about it a long time ago,” Conrad Nowak, Chalupa’s attorney, said, noting that his client worked for the DNC’s ethnic-American outreach. “Chalupa was nothing more than an individual involved in ethnic relations, not unlike countless other ethnic and heritage communities throughout the United States.”