Huh. Thousands of Sanders contributions flagged as illegal

posted at 8:31 am on February 27, 2016 by Jazz Shaw

The headlines are, in all likelihood, far more dire sounding than they actually are. The Washington Free Beacon highlights a letter sent to the Bernie Sanders campaign earlier this month which warns them that many of those famous “small donor” contributions he received were accepted in violation of the law. They fall into a few categories, but most are simply from people who are not allowed to donate at all or who gave more than is legally permitted.

Thousands of contributions to Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ campaign in January violated federal campaign finance laws, election regulators said on Thursday.

The Federal Election Commission sent a letter to the Democratic presidential candidate’s campaign committee on Thursday with a 90-page spreadsheet listing 3,457 “excessive, prohibited, and impermissible contributions.”


“Although the Commission may take further legal action concerning the acceptance of [excessive or prohibited] contributions, your prompt action to refund the prohibited amount will be taken into consideration,” the FEC told the campaign.

As to the violations themselves, these generally fall into the Campaign 101 classroom rules which everyone knows you’re not supposed to violate. Some people give more than the federally mandated $2,700 limit. Others were taken from foreign nationals who are barred from participating in our elections. It’s fairly easy to point fingers at something like this and ask how Sanders – someone who has been running campaigns since shortly after a large meteor wiped out most of the dinosaurs – could possibly have made such a mistake. And it’s true that he’s been through his share of campaigns and had to follow the fundraising rules. But having had to deal with some of these chores myself at the congressional district level, I can tell you that it’s a major pain in the backside. Most of Sanders’ campaigns for the Senate in Vermont likely involved contributions which could be fit in a normal sized shopping bag in any given moth, but now his staff is dealing with them in the tens of millions. I agree that flagging anything over 2,700 bucks should be a no brainer, but identifying everyone who is a foreign national is a bit more time consuming.

So who was involved in bringing this to light? The FEC certainly conducts audits and finds things on their own, but it won’t be terribly shocking if we find out that some Clinton supporters were in on the investigation initially. That’s also a fairly typical campaign tactic, since everyone with the resources to do so trolls the finance reports of the opponent. There were also some painfully obvious “hints” left online, such as this letter from a Bernie Bro in Germany.

I am German, live in Germany and just donated to Bernie Sanders’ campaign on simply using my credit card – Is this illegal in any way?

I think it’s interesting, because on the website one of the contribution rules is “I am a U.S. citizen or lawfully admitted permanent resident (i.e., green card holder)” which is not the case. Is this only so easy because I donated a small amount?

Let’s just say I’m a bit skeptical that this was an honest case of a confused German who just really, really wanted to help out Bernie and then became worried for his own legal peril. But whatever the cause, this is unlikely to “Bring Bernie Down.” The FEC noted in their own letter that they would take into consideration Bernie’s prompt action to refund the prohibited amount. At worst they’ll get tagged with a small fine for it. So while Clinton surrogates may try to make some hay out of it, don’t expect this to rise anywhere near the level of any of Hillary’s scandals.


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