Two crowdfunding pages created by Stormy Daniels’ attorney are under review after The Daily Beast revealed the porn star alleges that one donation campaign was created without her permission.
On Wednesday evening, the website CrowdJustice removed a new fundraiser Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti had launched to amass funds for her court battle with President Trump and his former fixer, Michael Cohen. Avenatti told The Daily Beast that he asked the site to take it down.
It was the second site Avenatti created for Daniels; the first, which is no longer accepting pledges, raised nearly $600,000 and the porn actress now claims she has no idea how it was spent. CrowdJustice said it is now taking a second look at the new campaign.
CrowdJustice is also reviewing a fundraiser Avenatti created to help families at the Mexican border that raised $159,863. It was billed as a campaign on behalf of “a group of detained mothers and children,” but doesn’t specify the names of the beneficiaries.
“We are raising funds to pay for (a) release bonds to assist mothers who are attempting to gain release from detention centers so they can be reunited with their children and (b) out-of-pocket expenses for our work reuniting families and changing the policy. No monies are going toward attorneys’ fees, and the uses of your money will be publicly disclosed.
“All mothers are mothers first. Regardless of their political persuasion. And all children are simply children,” the CrowdJustice page states. “Please help us right this wrong.”
A CrowdJustice spokesperson told The Daily Beast that Daniels’ claims about the most recent fundraiser started by Avenatti prompted it to examine the earlier one.
“Given recent press reports in relation to Ms. Clifford’s crowdfunding campaign, we are also conducting a review of this campaign and although pledging is still enabled, we have paused card charging on pledges (so that further funds will not be released) while that review is ongoing,” CrowdJustice said in a statement, referring to Daniels by her legal name, Stephanie Clifford.
Asked about how the asylum-seekers’ pledges were spent, the spokesperson said, “You’ll have to reach out to Mr. Avenatti for comment on disbursement and use of funds etc. As mentioned, the CrowdJustice platform verifies that a regulated lawyer has been engaged and funds are transferred to that lawyer’s client trust account.”
In a statement to The Daily Beast, Avenatti said CrowdJustice’s scrutiny “means nothing.”
“The campaign ended long ago (practically no monies have been raised in months) and every dollar has been accounted for. In fact, our out-of-pocket expenses were over $107,000 more than what was raised,” he said.
CrowdJustice’s review of the two campaigns follows The Daily Beast’s exclusive story in which Daniels claimed that Avenatti launched the second round of fundraising—and filed a defamation suit against Trump on her behalf—without her permission.
“We’ve been made aware via press reports that the campaign you refer to may not have been approved by the beneficiary,” the CrowdJustice spokesperson said. “The new page has been taken down while we communicate with those concerned. In the meantime, no funds from that campaign have been transferred to the legal representative and all pledges made have been refunded.”
Daniels told The Daily Beast on Wednesday that she is considering parting with Avenatti, who has become a constant fixture on cable-TV news and is prepping a potential run against Trump in 2020.
“For months I’ve asked Michael Avenatti to give me accounting information about the fund my supporters so generously donated to for my safety and legal defense,” Daniels said in a statement. “He has repeatedly ignored those requests. Days ago I demanded again, repeatedly, that he tell me how the money was being spent and how much was left.
“Instead of answering me, without my permission or even my knowledge Michael launched another crowdfunding campaign to raise money on my behalf. I learned about it on Twitter.”
In a statement to The Daily Beast after Daniels’ statement, Avenatti said: “I am and have always been Stormy’s biggest champion. I have personally sacrificed an enormous amount of money, time and energy toward assisting her because I believe in her. I have always been an open book with Stormy as to all aspects of her cases and she knows that.
“The retention agreement Stormy signed back in February provided that she would pay me $100.00 and that any and all other monies raised via a legal fund would go toward my legal fees and costs. Instead, the vast majority of the money raised has gone toward her security expenses and similar other expenses. The most recent campaign was simply a refresh of the prior campaign, designed to help defray some of Stormy’s expenses.”