America's federal election commission has imposed a record fine on a Chinese-owned company and a super PAC of the former presidential aspirant Jeb Bush for alleged campaign finance violations, a watchdog that had filed a complaint in this regard said Monday.
Following a complaint by Campaign Legal Center or CLC, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) fined American Pacific International Capital, Inc. (APIC) USD 550,000 for violating the foreign national contribution ban.
It also fined the pro-Jeb Bush super political action commitee (PAC) "Right to Rise" with USD 390,000 for soliciting a foreign national contribution, the CLC said. Jeb Bush is former Governor of Florida and 2016 Republican presidential candidate.
CLC's complaint cites the bombshell report by The Intercept in August 2016 that laid out smoking-gun evidence of the violation: the president of the Chinese-owned, California-based corporation admitted that he directed the corporation's contributions, which totaled USD 1.3 million.
"Today's action is a rare and remarkable step by the FEC, and a reminder that safeguarding our elections against foreign interference is in America's vital national security interests," said Trevor Potter, president of the CLC, and a former Republican chairman of the FEC.
"This illegal USD 1.3 million contribution is unmistakable proof that Citizens United opened the floodgates to foreign money in the US, and it is surely the tip of the iceberg," he said.
"The fact that the FEC, which so often deadlocks and therefore fails to act in violations, could agree on this one highlights the very real danger this sort of activity poses to our democracy," Potter said.
Foreign actors have a demonstrated interest in influencing elections, and corporations offer an easy way for them to do so, usually without detection, said Brendan Fischer, director, federal reform at CLC.
"In this case, it took smoking-gun evidence to establish this violation: if the president of the company had not admitted that he directed the contribution, the FEC never would have investigated it. Moreover, we can't be sure how many other foreign nationals have funnelled money into our elections through undisclosed donations to dark money groups," he said.
Law enforcement agencies need disclosure to enforce the laws protecting the integrity of American democracy, he said, adding that the law cannot be enforced against foreign money if the money is not disclosed at all.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)