In February 2016, videos were released showing Australian Labor Party volunteers admitting on hidden camera they used Australian taxpayer funds to assist Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and work against the campaigns of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Now, the FEC has reached a settlement with the Sanders campaign, requiring the campaign to pay a fine of $14,500.
The Federal Election Commission found that the presidential campaign of Vermont Senator Bernie sanders illegally accepted foreign campaign contributions when it accepted the help of Australian volunteers paid by the Australian Labor Party. Among other things, the foreign volunteers admitted to ripping up signs supporting then-candidate Donald Trump.
The Australian volunteers were paid a total $24,422 by the Sanders campaign during the New Hampshire presidential primary, covering stipends and airfare while they supported the campaign. Under U.S. law, those payments are considered illegal foreign contribution.
The settlement has passed quietly by despite a tumultuous year of accusations and conspiracies in the media and by twice-failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with foreign nationals. Some critics are frustrated by the media’s lack of coverage and the emphasis by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s focus on alleged collusion between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian foreign nationals in the face of admitted violations by the Sanders’ of the Federal Election Commission’s rules on foreign interference.
The FEC’s rules governing foreign nationals’ participation in U.S. elections state:
The Act and Commission regulations include a broad prohibition on foreign national activity in connection with elections in the United States. 52 U.S.C. § 30121 and generally, 11 CFR 110.20. In general, foreign nationals are prohibited from the following activities:
Making any contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or making any expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement in connection with any federal, state or local election in the United States; Making any contribution or donation to any committee or organization of any national, state, district, or local political party (including donations to a party nonfederal account or office building account); Making any disbursement for an electioneering communication; Making any donation to a presidential inaugural committee.
The question remains whether the case will set a legal precedent of accountability for campaigns accepting foreign support.