Super PAC Backing Jeb Bush Fined $390,000 For Illegal Contribution From Chinese Firm

Watchdog organization warns that unlawful foreign money in the American election process is often hidden.

The super PAC that backed Jeb Bush’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination has been hit with a $390,000 fine by the Federal Election Commission for accepting a $1.3 million illegal foreign contribution from a Chinese company. The FEC fined the company $550,000.

The combined fines are the largest ever imposed for campaign contributions by foreign nationals, according to the Campaign Legal Center, a watchdog group that filed the complaint that triggered the FEC investigation.

The 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 the Campaign Legal Center president, Trevor Potter, a former Republican chairman of the FEC. “This illegal $1.3 million contribution is unmistakable proof that Citizens United opened the floodgates” to hidden foreign money in U.S. campaigns, and it is “surely the tip of the iceberg,” he warned in a statement.

The Right to Rise super PAC solicited the contribution in 2016 from American Pacific International Capital, a California corporation owned by Chinese citizens, according to the CLC complaint. Bush’s brother Neil Bush was on the company board. The subject of the donations was first broached by Neil Bush, according to a conciliation agreement concerning the FEC fines, said Mother Jones magazine, which was first to report the penalties.

Campaign Legal Center filed an FEC complaint following a 2016 article in the Intercept about the Chinese company’s contribution. The donation was intended to “influence in some way good or bad policies” and to “create a better environment” for doing business, a company spokesman told the Intercept.

Corporations offer an easy cover for foreign actors to “influence elections, usually without detection,” Campaign Legal Center’s Brendan Fischer said.

Mark Irion, spokesman for American Pacific International Capital, told Mother Jones that the company is “agreeing to a very large fine and remains committed to complying with all campaign finance laws and regulations.”

Neil Bush said he did nothing wrong.