Between Bernie Sanders and the Australians, there was collusion.
While the Russia investigation continues to swirl around President Donald Trump and the members of his entourage, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) has confirmed another instance of illegal meddling in the election: Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign illegally accepted contributions from the Australian Labor Party, which paid for volunteers to fly across the globe to volunteer on his campaign, according to a ruling filed earlier this month.
The volunteers, who were participating in a government-funded education program, even got $8,000 in stipends from their native country to campaign for the popular Vermont senator in his 2016 run for the White House.
The FEC ruled that the Sanders campaign accepted about $25,000 in in-kind donations from the Australians. Bernie’s been ordered to fork over $14,500 in civil penalties for violating campaign law.
Sanders’ campaign staffers told the FEC they knew that some of the Australian volunteers were getting stipends, but they thought — “mistakenly,” the FEC has pointed out in their ruling — that the volunteers were doing legal work. After initially pushing back against the FEC, the Sanders campaign has agreed to pay up.
A campaign spokesperson told VICE News that the campaign accepted the fine to avoid an expensive legal fight with the FEC but noted that it did not admit to any wrongdoing.
“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.
William O’Brien, the Republican former New Hampshire House speaker, filed the complaint with the FEC that led to the fine, according to local radio station WMUV, which first reported on the ruling. O’Brien had seen a video, filmed by Project Veritas, of Australians pulling up yard signs during the campaign. As it turns out, O’Brien’s hunch was right.
Project Veritas is the same organization that tried to bait the Washington Post last year into reporting on a fake news story about a woman who falsely claimed failed Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore impregnated her. (The Post didn’t bite.)
Cover image: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a primary night watch party at Concord High School, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)