Did Obama really pay for the Steele dossier? (No)
On October 30th 2017, The Federalist published a story titled “Obama’s Campaign Paid $972,000 To Law Firm That Secretly Paid Fusion GPS In 2016”. The story alleges that President Obama, while still in office, paid the law firm Perkins Coie in an attempt to help the DNC and the Clinton Campaign fund the Steele dossier. The story was shared today by President Trump on his Twitter, seemingly in an attempt to discredit the dossier and the bombshell news of his former advisors facing indictments.
The story published by the Federalist, failed to reach out for comment from Obama For America (OFA) and does not attempt to provide a clear account as to why the former presidents PAC was paying the law firm. A likely explanation, however, is that that Perkins Coie is a widely used law firm among political campaigns and organizations. According to the Federal Election Commission, over 2000 disbursements were made to Perkins Coie throughout the 2015–2016 reporting period.
The Federalist also makes the claim that, in paying Perkins Coie, they are funding the research behind the Steele Dossier. This is due to the fact that Perkins Coie employed a research firm, Fusion GPS, to conduct the opposition research on than candidate Trump. However, the story does not provide any evidence to support that OFA was paying Fusion GPS, and it would be misleading to make such a connection based purely on the payments from OFA to Perkins Coie.
The basis of the entire story relies on the fact than OFA did pay over $900,000 between now and April 2016 to Perkins Coie. I have independently verified this claim based on FEC records, and it is indeed true. However, it is also worth noting that many institutions have also paid Perkins Coie similar amounts during the 2016 campaign season. For example, both the republican House & Senate majority pacs, spent over $400,00 each on Perkins Coie. If one were to follow the claim made by The Federalist, the Republican party would have also been funding the opposition research against Donald Trump.