The night before the New York primaries, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders accused rival Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) of violating the rules in campaign financing.
Bernie Sanders’ attorney, Brad Deutsch sent a letter to DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, to ask whether Clinton’s campaign had violated campaign finance rules due to questionable spending by the Hillary Victory Fund (HVF).
In the letter, Deutsch argued that Clinton was extensively using the fund for her campaign when those funds are also allotted for the DNC and 33 other state Democratic parties across the country.
— The Atlantic (@TheAtlantic) April 20, 2016
The HVF is a joint fundraising committee that also raises funds for the Democratic party’s nominee for president in the general elections. If Bernie Sanders wins the nomination, he would also benefit from it.
Sanders’ campaign then pointed out that HVF is currently receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from individuals and groups because that is how it was set up. However, the former Secretary of State is allegedly using these funds for ads, commercials, and other promotional materials, which violates finance rules.
Under federal election rules, candidates are only allowed a maximum of $2,700 in donations from individual donors to be used for their respective campaigns. In spite of this, Sanders’ camp alleges that Clinton is still benefiting a lot more from the fund.
The HVF does, however, allow individuals to max out their donations for as much as $358,000, but this would prevent the donor from giving any monetary support to the DNC or state parties. Sanders’ letter claims that Clinton is using the majority of those funds, which he calls “serious apparent violations” of the law.
— The People’s Report (@PeoplesReport) April 19, 2016
“Bernie 2016 is particularly concerned that these extremely large-dollar individual contributions have been used by HVF to pay for more than $7.8 million in direct mail efforts and over $8.6 million in online advertising,” Sanders’ attorney wrote.
The letter argued that there may be two possibilities: the first one is that the HVF is providing “in-kind” contributions to Clinton’s campaign by way of online advertising and direct mail.
The other possibility is that Clinton is using the HVF donations from large-dollar donors who have already supported the candidate through her Hillary for America (HFA) fundraising committee.
In this case, there would definitely be “excessive contributions.”
— Bipartisan Report (@Bipartisanism) April 19, 2016
Also, Deutsch said that recent filings showed that all of HVF’s $2.6 million in expenses for staff salaries and other costs to run the joint committee were payments to Clinton’s campaign.
Deutsch finally concluded that Hillary Clinton may be using the HVF to “subsidize” her campaign.
Earlier this year, the Clinton team said that they were using the joint committee’s funds accordingly.
“Republicans are spending record amounts trying to beat Democrats, and we want to ensure that the Democratic nominee and candidates up and down the ballot are backed by a strong party with the resources needed to win,” said campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin in February.
However, Politico reported that in the first three months of 2016, the majority of HVF funds were used for the frontrunner’s campaign.
Clinton committee raised $33 million in first quarter https://t.co/g7uTMOC8fz
— Jeffrey McCarthy (@falufalump) April 20, 2016
It is also understandable why Bernie Sanders is calling out violations on Clinton’s misuse of HVF funds.
The Federal Election Commission issued a warning to Bernie Sanders’ campaign in February for receiving individual donations that exceeded the $2,700 limit. Now, the Vermont senator is pointing out that Clinton is doing the same thing with the HVF, and it seems neither the DNC nor the FEC is taking notice.
The recent big wins of Bernie Sanders in key states have narrowed the gap between him and his rival. Hillary Clinton’s lead is now down to 200 delegates, and about two million votes from previous primaries. However, the country’s biggest state, California, has not yet voted.
[Photos by Mark Wilson and David Calvert/Getty Images]