The US Federal Election Commission has fined Senator Bernie Sanders for accepting illegal contributions from the Australian Labour Party during his 2016 campaign. Seven ALP volunteers worked on Sanders’ presidential campaign.
Seven Australians volunteered for Sanders during his bid for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. Their flights and living costs, which totaled $24,422, were paid for by the Australian Labor Party (ALP), according to the FEC document.
The FEC ruled that the money the ALP shelled out for the volunteers’ flights and stipends constituted an in-kind donation, which is prohibited under federal campaign regulations.
As part of a settlement with the FEC, the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign and the ALP will pay $14,500 each in civil penalties for violating federal election law.
The Sanders campaign team argued that they did not realize they were breaking the law at the time.
“The folks on the campaign managing volunteers did not believe the stipend disqualified them from being volunteers,” the Sanders political team said in a statement to the New Hampshire television station WMUR on Wednesday.
“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 team said.
The Sanders campaign agreed to pay the FEC “a small settlement” in order to avoid a “long and expensive fight” over the status of the volunteers, but it continues to deny any wrongdoing.
The complaint was brought by Republican William O’Brien, a former speaker of the New Hampshire House, according to WMUR.
O’Brien was alerted to the presence of the Australian volunteers when a conservative activist group, Project Veritas Action, posted a video apparently showing the volunteers tearing down campaign posters for Donald Trump in New Hampshire.
“I’m disappointed that it’s not comprehensive. 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,” O’Brien told WMUR.
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