Jeb!'s super-PAC got a little too globalist, accepting 1.3 million from Chinese-owned company

The Federal Election Commission has imposed  almost a million dollars in fines on the super-PAC founded by Jeb! Bush in early 2015 and its Chinese donors of $1.3 million.  In other words, "foreign interference in our presidential election."  The move represents a blow to the NeverTrump faction of the GOP, for the super-PAC caught being too globalist is headed by NeverTrump Mike Murphy, and the Bush family has been signaling its opposition to President Trump and comfort with Democrats like Bill Clinton, whom the late George H.W. Bush reportedly looked upon "like a son."

Mother Jones gleefully reports:

The Federal Election Commission has hit Right to Rise USA, the super-PAC that backed Jeb Bush's 2016 presidential bid, with a record fine for accepting a seven-figure donation from a company owned by Chinese nationals who were in business with Bush's brother, Neil, according to FEC documents obtained by Mother Jones.  It is illegal for foreign nationals to be involved in making donations to political committees.

Neil Bush, who has extensive business dealings in China, solicited the $1.3 million contribution from American Pacific International Capital (APIC), an international investment holding company where Neil is a board member.  Although the contribution to Jeb's super-PAC came from the American arm of APIC, the company's owners are Chinese, and Neil Bush initially solicited the money from two Chinese nationals — Gordon Tang, the chair of APIC, and Huaidan Chen, a board member.  The FEC has fined APIC $550,000 and Right to Rise $390,000. 

The rare action from the FEC, which is composed of three Democrat and three Republican members who rarely agree, came as the result of a complaint by The Campaign Legal Center (CLC).  The Intercept, funded by eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar and the home of Glenn Greenwald, brought the complaint to light in August 2016, as the presidential campaign was underway:

The Intercept has determined that a corporation owned by a Chinese couple made a major donation to Jeb Bush's Super PAC Right to Rise USA — and it did so after receiving detailed advice from Charlie Spies, arguably the most important Republican campaign finance lawyer in American politics.

The Spies memo was dated February 19, 2015.  One month later, American Pacific International Capital Inc., a California corporation owned by Gordon Tang and Huaidan Chen, a married couple who are citizens of China and permanent residents of Singapore, made a $1 million donation to Right to Rise USA.  APIC subsequently gave the group an additional $300,000, its total donation of $1.3 million making APIC one of the Bush Super PAC's largest contributors.

Recall that as the 2016 nomination contest began, Jeb! was regarded as the frontrunner in no small part because of the massive donations his campaign entities were able to raise.  Remember that Jeb! TV ad that blanketed cable news depicting his campaign as an unstoppable locomotive speeding down the tracks?

The CLC press release on the ruling blames the Citizens United decision that allows corporations to make political donations to super-PACs:

"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 CLC, and a former Republican Chairman of the FEC.  "This illegal $1.3 million contribution is unmistakable proof that Citizens United opened the floodgates to foreign money in the U.S., and it is surely the tip of the iceberg.  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."

"Foreign actors have a demonstrated interest in influencing elections, and corporations offer an easy way to 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 funneled money into our elections through undisclosed donations to dark money groups.  Law enforcement agencies need disclosure to enforce the laws protecting the integrity of our democracy.  The law can't be enforced against foreign money if the money isn't disclosed at all."

Mother Jones claims to have access to a non-public document, the agreement between the FEC and the super-PAC:

According to a legally binding conciliation agreement that Right to Rise signed with the FEC, which was obtained by Mother Jones, Neil Bush first broached the topic of APIC making a contribution to his brother's super-PAC during a conversation he had with Tang in Singapore during a business trip.  Tang stated at the time that APIC might be interested in contributing if it could do so legally.

Bush then sent an email to Wilson Chen and Huaidan Chen on February 21, 2015, following up on his conversation with Tang about getting a donation.  Bush wrote that Tang had "expressed interest in donating legally through APIC to my brother Jeb's political action committee."  He also wrote that  "[i]f Gordon wants to make a donation you ought to pass this by your legal counsel as well to be sure everything is done properly."  Neil attached to the email a copy of a Right to Rise legal memorandum written by the PAC's lawyer, Charlie Spies, that outlined the rules on contributions from "Domestic Subsidiaries of Foreign Corporations to Federal Super PACs."

On February 19, before this email exchange with Wilson and Huaidan, Neil called Spies asking how to legally solicit the contribution from Tang.  Spies then sent him the same legal memorandum, but Bush did not follow its rules, as shown by the solicitation email he sent Wilson and Hauidan (a Chinese foreign national).  

Spies told Mother Jones that "Right to Rise conciliated this matter to avoid costly litigation and appreciates the commission's recognition of its extensive compliance efforts."

So, according to this, Jeb! made a big mistake by personally soliciting funds from a foreign person.  Apparently, that TV commercial locomotive from his presidential campaign was headed toward the bridge across the Pacific that Ocasio-Cortez wants to build to replace airplanes.

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