The Federal Election Commission has fined the publisher of the National Enquirer over its involvement in a payment made to keep Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Donald Trump, to keep quiet about the relationship during the 2016 presidential campaign. The $150,000 payment amounted to an illegal campaign contribution, the commission found. While the case springs from a complaint filed by Common Cause against Trump and his campaign committee, the commission said Trump will face no action or investigation, the BBC reports. A360, which owns the Enquirer, agreed to pay a fine of $187,500. The decision came out when Common Cause, a government watchdog, released its correspondence with the FEC. The commission did not comment on the case; its findings should be released within 30 days, per NBC.
McDougal has said that the Enquirer bought her story for $150,000 and that the deal prohibited her from talking about the affair in public. Trump has denied having an affair with McDougal. The FEC ruled that the Enquirer's publisher violated election laws by buying the story but never publishing it, a tactic called "catch and kill." The publisher's chief executive then, David Pecker, is a friend and ally of Trump's. Michael Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer at the time, set up the deal, per CNN. Cohen testified that he did it at Trump's direction. Paul Ryan of Common Cause called the fine "a win for democracy" but criticized the lack of action against Trump. "All the other actors have been held accountable," he said, "but still no accountability for former President Trump." (Read more National Enquirer stories.)