The Trump administration reportedly requires outgoing staff members to sign NDAs (NYT).1,2 Also reported, these agreements provide the staff member a $15,000 per month payment (WaPo) for their silence. Lastly, the agreements are variously made with Trump for President, the RNC, or some other PAC-name I can't remember.3

Consider for this question such an NDA signed with Trump for President. I heard a talking head today (recall is failing me!) off-handedly mention that it would certainly be a campaign finance violation. Would it be illegal--specifically as a matter of campaign finance--for a campaign to pay for an outgoing staff member's silence?

1 - whether or not such an agreement would be upheld is not my interest here. Cf. ...experts say she might prevail in court (WaPo)

2 - I've seen them variously described as nondisclosure, nondisparagement, or confidentiality agreements. I don't know how much of a legal difference that matters exists among those, but I also don't think that's really at issue for this question.

3 - I got this bit from reading a copy of what appeared to be one with Trump for President, and a TV report that mentioned two other entities. But I can't find those references up right now =</sup>


1 Answer 1


Someone serving in the Trump administration is a federal employee, any classified material they have access to is already covered by relevant laws. A NDA that covers general non-classified information they learned during their work would violate the first amendment because the US government would be a beneficiary of the NDA even though it appears that the NDA is between Trump and a (former) employee at the white house.

There is precedent for this in McGEHEE v. CASEY and US v. MARCHETTI

edit: As for the source of the money, if the job is from the Trump campaign I don't think it violates campaign fiance laws. Any other source would go over the contribution limits though.

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    So the NDA may not be worth the paper it's written on, in terms of enforceability. But how does that answer the legality question about its funding source? Aug 15, 2018 at 4:08
  • NDA in question is specific to Trump Campaign. Any document signed by Trump's Administration employees is Nondisparagement Agreement; they were included in contract on the insistence of Trump, but he was informed immediately that they are unforceable. I think this is the problem with news feeds, as they do not make clear enough distinction between the two.
    – user10424
    Aug 15, 2018 at 14:06
  • Most people who have accepted payoffs or have mentioned the conditions seem to indicate it's part of the "Trump 2020" campaign, from what I've read. Aug 16, 2018 at 20:32
  • This doesn't really answer the question. It doesn't really address campaign finance at all, which is what is being asked.
    – Bobson
    Aug 21, 2018 at 22:46

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