The Federal Election Commission (FEC) fined Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign on Wednesday for illegally accepting contributions from the Australian Labor Party (ALP).
The FEC ruled earlier this month that the Australian Labor Party paid for volunteers to fly to America to volunteer for Sanders’ campaign.
The volunteers were participating in a government-funded education program; they received $8,000 in stipends to participate in the Sanders’ campaign.
The agency found that the Sanders campaign accepted roughly $25,000 of in-kind donations from the Australian volunteers. The FEC ordered the campaign to hand over roughly $14,500 in civil penalties for violating federal election law.
A Sanders campaign spokesman told Vice News the campaign accepted the FEC’s ruling to avoid an expensive legal battle; the Sanders campaign did not admit violating the law.
The Sanders spokesman said:
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.
An ALP source also contended that they did not violate American election law.
“All parties send observers to overseas elections. It has happened for decades. This is a new and very strict interpretation,” an ALP source told an Australian news outlet. “We don’t believe any rules were broken.”
Former New Hampshire Speaker of the House William O’Brien filed the complaint with the FEC. O’Brien filed the complaint based upon an investigation conducted by Project Veritas which found that Australians were violating federal election law.
O’Brien told WMUR Manchester in an interview on Tuesday that he intends to ask the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) as well as the New Hampshire Attorney General to conduct a criminal investigation.
The former New Hampshire Speaker said, “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. I’m disappointed that they didn’t go to what was the effect on the campaign.”
O’Brien added, “It’s basically the Australian government using the conduit of a socialist party to assist the socialist candidate in the United States.”
O’Brien concluded that it appears that there are “two sets of rules” for Republicans and Democrats.