In recent days, as the U.K. pondered its future in the European Union and presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump waded in with a press conference on his Scottish golf course, the Scottish National Party’s 54 members of the British Parliament received multiple emails from Trump’s campaign, soliciting donations for his presidential bid — a possible violation of U.S. campaign finance laws, they say.
“They’ve been getting these emails for the past week,” SNP staffer Christopher Mullins-Silverstein told Fusion. “Ever since he came to Scotland.”
Records provided to Fusion show that the emails actually started last Wednesday, the day before Britons voted to leave the E.U. in a historic referendum — and just before Trump arrived in the Scottish lowlands to promote his golf resort and praise the Brexit vote, with awkward results.
The donation emails sent to the MPs include one in which Trump praises British voters for opting to leave the E.U. “These voters stood up for their nation — they put the United Kingdom first, and they took their country back,” it states, linking to a donation site and adding: “Will you stand with me at this critical time?” (Nearly two-thirds of Scots voted against leaving the E.U.; many Scots, led by left-leaning SNP politicians, are now calling for independence from the rest of the U.K. for Scotland.)
The emails themselves appear to be boilerplate donation solicitations, familiar to political journalists, and emailed automatically to any email address registered with the Trump campaign through its website. The MPs reported receiving the emails — at least four apiece — in the inboxes of their public-facing email accounts, listed on the U.K. Parliament’s website.
“Have received a few of these – I assumed the campaign just added us en [masse], but it could have been done maliciously,” MP Peter Grant wrote of the Trump emails. “Had to dig this out of the trash, they are bog-standard campaign spam.”
It’s possible that an outside troll signed up the MPs for Trump’s campaign emails without their, or the Trump camp’s, knowledge. But the emails’ timing, and Trump’s headline-grabbing idiosyncrasies, left some of the liberal-leaning Scottish politicians wondering if this was another stunt by the crass land tycoon. “I wouldn’t put it past Trump’s campaign to troll the SNP,” Mullins-Silverstein told Fusion. “One of our MPs did call for him to be banned from the U.K.” He said that parliamentary member, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, also received the Trump solicitations.
A Federal Elections Commission representative told Fusion that while the commission cannot comment on specific candidates or situations, donations by foreign nationals to U.S. elections causes are generally forbidden, and “it is also unlawful to help foreign nationals violate that ban or to solicit, receive or accept contributions or donations from them.” But such actions violate the rules only if they’re knowingly undertaken by the campaign; it’s unclear whether automated emails to a list of forbidden recipients would qualify.
Mullins-Silverstein, who has sent a letter of complaint about the solicitations to the FEC, said it matters little to him whether Trump’s people sent the emails on purpose.
“You should know who you’re asking these questions to,” he said of the donation requests.
Some members of the Scottish contingent seemed sympathetic to the challenges of maintaining a reliable, legal campaign email list, though.
“I get similar emails to my personal address from the Democrats because I signed up years ago out of interest using the zip code for the town in SC where I’d stayed in summer 2000,” Grant, the MP, wrote.
Fusion’s calls and emails to the Trump campaign were not returned by press time.