Cohen did not break the laws he pled guilty to
Michael Cohen Didn’t Actually Violate Federal Campaign Laws. Here’s Why.Engle makes a good argument. It is too bad Cohen's lawyers did not, but they were probably worried about more serious charges and wanted a case to gig Trump too.
Putting aside that no campaign money actually changed hands here (and it is hard to put that aside), it is not a violation of campaign finance law to cause someone else’s corporation to spend money.
The corporate contribution statute Cohen allegedly violated states that it is unlawful for (1) any corporation to make a contribution in connection with a federal election, or (2) for a person to knowingly accept such a contribution, or (3) for an officer of the corporation to consent to making a corporate contribution. It says nothing about causing someone to make a contribution.
In other words, the statute polices corporations, people who accept corporate contributions, and corporate officers. Cohen is none of those three. If anyone violated the law here it would be the National Enquirer and its chairman, David Pecker. They are the ones who actually wrote the check.
But did the National Enquirer even violate election law when it wrote that check?
No. Federal law exempts from the definition of “contribution” the money that media spend on elections. The Federal Election Commission, in fact, has a proud history of defending the activities of the media, left and right, from regulation and censorship. Media decision-making is protected First Amendment activity regardless of whether it helps or hurts a candidate. And I’m sure Hillary Clinton is thankful for that.