The commission documents said Perkins Coie — where a partner at the time, Marc Elias, was representing the Clinton campaign — paid Fusion GPS slightly more than $1 million in 2016, and the law firm was in turn paid $175,000 by the campaign and about $850,000 by the party during six weeks in July and August 2016. Campaign spending disclosure reports described most of those payments to Perkins Coie as having been for “legal services” and “legal and compliance consulting.”
The Washington Examiner earlier reported on the commission’s letter to Mr. Backer.
The Steele dossier was a set of reports written by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence agent whose research firm was a subcontractor that Fusion GPS hired to look into Mr. Trump’s purported links to Russia. The reports cited unnamed sources who claimed that there was a “well-developed conspiracy of coordination” between the Trump campaign and Russia and that Russia had a blackmail tape of Mr. Trump with prostitutes.
In addition to giving his reports to Perkins Coie, Mr. Steele shared some with the F.B.I. and reporters. The F.B.I. — which had opened its investigation into Russia’s election interference operation and links to the Trump campaign on other grounds — used part of the dossier in applications to wiretap a Trump associate. BuzzFeed published the dossier in January 2017, heightening suspicion about Mr. Trump and Russia.
It has become clear that the dossier’s sourcing was thin. No corroborating evidence emerged in the intervening years to support many of its claims, such as the purported sex tape, and investigators determined that one key allegation — that a lawyer for Mr. Trump, Michael D. Cohen, had met with Russian officials in Prague during the campaign — was false.
The primary source of information in the dossier was Igor Danchenko, a researcher hired by Mr. Steele to canvass for information about Mr. Trump and Russia from people he knew, including in Europe and Russia.
Mr. Danchenko told the F.B.I. in 2017 that he thought the tenor of the dossier was more conclusive than was justified. He portrayed the story of the blackmail tape as speculation that he was unable to confirm; a key source had called him without identifying himself, he said, adding that he had guessed at the source’s identity.
Last year, the Trump-era special counsel investigating the Russia inquiry, John H. Durham, indicted Mr. Danchenko on charges that he lied to the F.B.I. about some of his sources.