Bernie Sanders’ accusations that Hillary Clinton is using her joint fundraising committee to skirt federal campaign finance laws are now proven.
According to a new Politico report, the Hillary Victory Fund has kept 99 percent of approximately $60 million it was supposedly raising for state Democratic Parties. Under the agreement signed by Democratic Party leaders in 33 states, the Hillary Victory Fund would solicit donations from super-wealthy donors for as much as $353,400.
The deal agreed to by state parties and the Clinton campaign allows for the first $2,700 raised by the Victory Fund to go to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The next $33,400 is earmarked for the DNC, and the remaining funds are meant for state Democratic parties. Under this agreement, it was assumed that the DNC would spend that money helping each respective state party win down-ballot elections.
However, after the original distribution, the Clinton campaign is the sole decider of what happens to the rest of the cash.
As such, state party organizations in solidly blue states that don’t have competitive US Senate elections this year are getting zero financial benefit from the agreement. As Politico reported, the DNC exploited Minnesota’s Democratic-Farm Labor Party (the state’s Democratic Party equivalent) to the tune of $214,100:
“…The Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party received $43,500 from the victory fund on Nov. 2, only to transfer the same amount to the DNC that same day. The pattern repeated itself after the Minnesota party received transfers from the victory fund of $20,600 on Dec. 1 (the party sent the same amount to the DNC the next day) and $150,000 on Jan. 4 (it transferred the same amount to the DNC that day).
That means that Minnesota’s net gain from its participation in the victory fund was precisely $0 through the end of March. Meanwhile, the DNC pocketed an extra $214,100 in cash routed through Minnesota — much of which the DNC wouldn’t have been able to accept directly, since it came from donors who had mostly already maxed out to the national party committee.”
As the Wisconsin Citizens Media Cooperative reported last month, the Wisconsin Democratic Party was also used as a pass-through for over $200,000 as part of its agreement with the Hillary Victory Fund. These screenshots show that money donated to Wisconsin Democrats was given right back to the DNC the same day:
As of March 31, only eight of the participating state parties had received more money from the Victory Fund than was taken out by the DNC.
Moreover, the Hillary Victory Fund’s expenditures are overwhelmingly for the exclusive benefit of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Politico reports that the Victory Fund is spending $8.6 million on ads produced by Bully Pulpit Interactive, which has already been paid $9 million to produce ads for Clinton’s presidential campaign. These ads are supposedly tailored to appeal to small-dollar donors to contribute to the Clinton campaign, rather than for the DNC or state parties.
However, many of these ads by Bully Pulpit Interactive also seem to skirt finance laws, as funds from joint fundraising committees are not to be used for direct electioneering — in other words, they can’t tell voters to be for or against any specific candidate. The ads to “Stop Trump” would seem to break this rule, but Josh Schwerin, a Clinton spokesperson, claimed that “All of HVF’s activities, including online ads, are for fundraising purposes.”
This new report vindicates Sen. Sanders’ claims that Hillary Clinton was improperly using her joint fundraising committee to get around campaign contribution limits. Current campaign finance rules only allow a donor to contribute $2,700 to a campaign in a single election cycle.
However, the McCutcheon vs. FEC Supreme Court decision of 2014 raised the aggregate contribution limits on individual donors, allowing the Clinton campaign to solicit six-figure donations from the same oligarchs, like Alice Walton of the Walmart family, that already gave a maximum $2,700 donation this cycle. Sanders argues that by routing money raised by her joint fundraising committee to efforts that exclusively help her campaign, Clinton is flouting campaign finance regulations.
In a public statement, Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said, “It is unprecedented for the DNC to allow a joint committee to be exploited to the benefit of one candidate in the midst of a contested nominating contest.”