Clinton Speeches May Have Violated FEC Campaign Rules

Since the Democratic primary race began, Hillary has maintained that she did not know she would run for president until shortly before she announced. But the facts in the case point to a much different truth. Clinton gave her last paid speech to the American Camping Association in Atlantic City for $260,000 on March 19, 2015. Less than one month later, on April 12, she announced her bid for president.

The topic of her last speech concerned the J-1 Visa program, something several candidates have been critical of. Bernie Sanders on Twitter criticized it, saying it was a program that had “morphed into a low-wage jobs program” that permits large corporations to hire cheaper foreign labor. Even Donald Trump, whose empire relies on J-1 Visas has blasted it, calling for its elimination.

Specifically, the J-1 program was originally meant to give foreign students an opportunity to experience life in the United States for a few months while working. Instead, tales of cramped accommodations, low pay and high rents, making their time in the program more closely resemble indentured servitude than cultural visitors.

So, why was Hillary Clinton giving a speech to the ACA about the program less than one month before she announced her run for president?

J-1 Visa students have gotten paychecks with zero pay due to heavy fees, amounting their work to slave labor.

Even before she gave her last speech, Clinton was hiring campaign workers. CBS News reported on March 13, 2015 — six days before her final speech — that the Democratic frontrunner was hiring staff in New Hampshire, including Mike Vlacich, Clinton’s campaign director for the state.

Weeks before Clinton announced her candidacy, her long-time chief-of-staff Huma Abedin was shopping around for campaign headquarter offices. On April 3, 2015, Politico reported that Abedin had been inspecting Clinton’s eventual Brooklyn headquarters “weeks ago,” and toured the neighborhood.

The Politico story also noted that Clinton already had 35 people on her campaign staff, and her campaign manager, Robby Mook, had been “making calls about top-level hires” since January.

From January 21 until March 19, Clinton earned more than $1.3 million from just six speeches. For someone who didn’t know she was running for president until just before she announced, she and her people were doing quite a lot of campaign set-up.

Federal Election Commission rules explicitly state that a candidate must file campaign paperwork within 15 days of performing any campaign activities, but it appears that Clinton was unofficially campaigning for months before she announced last April 12.

While building up her staff is likely not against FEC rules, the six speeches between January and March could reasonably be construed as illegal campaign activities, especially since she was in the midst of a hiring spree.

Further adding to the speculation that Clinton was illegally campaigning during those two months is the fact that many of the firms that paid for her speeches have government contracts with the U.S. government.

The Associated Press recently reviewed records of Clinton’s speeches, regulatory filings, and communication and discovered that nearly all 82 corporations she has given speeches to since 2013 have an interest in affecting policy.

“Most companies and groups that paid Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to speak between 2013 and 2015 have lobbied federal agencies in recent years, and more than one-third are government contractors.”

It is not a far stretch of the imagination to understand that those companies would expect Clinton to be favorable to them if she wins the White House in November.

Bernie Sanders wants Clinton to release the transcripts.

It was why her rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, has hammered away at her to release the transcripts of her speeches. What would be more damning to Clinton’s presidential hopes than for the transcripts to reveal that she was running for president — months before she ever announced?

The implications are clear: regardless of the content of the transcripts, Clinton’s activities — especially during the first two months of 2015 — leading up to her announcement leave no doubt that she had been planning to run for president for months, if not years.

[Photo by Matt Rourke/AP Images]