The Federal Election Commission (FEC) imposed a fine on Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign of $14,500 as he agreed to receive illegal in-kind foreign contributions from the Australian Labor Party (ALP) during the 2016 elections.
The verdict comes from a February 2016, conservative activist group Project Veritas video indicating Australian nationals working for the Sanders campaign on the dime of the Australian taxpayer funded ALP.
Republican and former New Hampshire House speaker William O’Brien submitted a complaint with the FEC immediately after Project Veritas revealed the footage, accusing the ALP had made “prohibited foreign contributions” to the Sanders campaign, according to WMUR.
The FEC imposed the fine against the Sanders campaign in a Feb. 2016-issued conciliation agreement.
The ALP got in touch with the Sanders campaign according to the FEC and requested consent to permit Australian nationals to be inserted into the campaign as volunteers. The Sanders campaign approved the ALP’s request, even though they knew the ALP would be paying Australians a daily stipend in addition to covering the cost of their flights to the United States.
While volunteering with the Sanders campaign, the Australians took part in political activities “including encouraging voter attendance at campaign events, recruiting volunteers, canvassing with volunteers, and planning events,” according to the FEC.
The Sanders campaign “treated the ALP delegates no differently from any other campaign out-of-town volunteers and was aware that they were receiving a stipend from the ALP,” the FEC added.
The ALP spent $16,140 for the Australians’ flights to the United States and $8,282 for their daily stipends. The FEC established that amounted to a $24,422 “prohibited in-kind foreign contribution” the Sanders campaign approved by the ALP.
A Sanders spokesperson said in a statement to WMUR that the campaign doesn’t think it broke any rules.
“During the course of the campaign, thousands and thousands of young people from every state and many other countries volunteered. Among them were seven Australian young people who were receiving a modest stipend and airfare from the Australian Labor Party so they could learn about American politics,” the spokesperson said. “The folks on the campaign managing volunteers did not believe the stipend disqualified them from being volunteers.”
“In order to avoid a long and expensive fight with the FEC over the technical status of these young people, the campaign agreed to pay the FEC a small settlement but did not agree that it broke any rules,” the Sanders spokesperson added.
O’Brien told WMUR Tuesday he felt “disappointed” as the FEC did not manage to establish a connection between ALP and the Australian government.
“I’m disappointed that it’s not comprehensive,” O’Brien said of the FEC’s ruling. “It doesn’t go into the Australian government funding. And I’m disappointed that it doesn’t go with greater specificity into the actual things that they were doing. I’m disappointed that they didn’t go to what was the effect on the campaign.”