The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has levied a massive fine against Right to Rise USA, a pro-Jeb Bush super PAC, for accepting a $1.3 million donation from a corporation owned by Chinese nationals. It is illegal for foreign nationals to make donations to political committees or organizations in connection with federal, state, or local elections in the United States.
The Campaign Legal Center, led by J. Gerald Hebert, asked the FEC to investigate in 2016 after The Intercept reported that Chinese-owned American Pacific International Capital, Inc. (APIC) had made $1.3 million in contributions to the Right to Rise PAC.
The $390,000 fine is reportedly the FEC’s largest fine since Citizens United and the third largest in its history:
On March 29, 2017, the Commission found that there is reason to believe American Pacific International Capital inc., Wilson Cheng, Gordon Tang, and Huaiden Chen violated 52 U.S.C. § 30121 (a) (1) (A) and on October 11, 2018, the Commission found that there was reason to believe Tight to Rise USA and Charles Spies in his official capacity as treasurer violated 52 U.S.C. § 30121 (a) (2) and 11 CFR 110.20 provisions of the Federal Elections Campaign Act of 1971, as amended.
HUGE: @FEC has levied its biggest fine since Citizens United & 3rd largest in history after investigation found pro-Jeb! Bush super PAC Right to Rise illegally took $1.3 million donation from Chinese-owned corporation—breaking federal law barring foreign interference in elections pic.twitter.com/qujTg9ZI0n
— Anna Massoglia (@annalecta) March 11, 2019
According to Mother Jones, APIC was in business with Bush’s brother, Neil. The Chinese company was fined a whopping $550,000, bringing the combined fine against Right to Rise USA and APIC is $940,000.
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.
“This is a big, big fine, one of the biggest fines in FEC history,” Brendan Fischer from the Campaign Legal Center told Mother Jones.
Right to Rise was led by notorious Never-Trumper Mike Murphy, who was the subject of much derision in February 2016, when Jeb Bush bowed out of the race amid the record amounts of cash his super PAC raised.
— Brian Doherty (@BDOH) February 22, 2016
Murphy has long been one of Bush’s closest advisers — and the political world was in awe last year when Right to Rise raised $100 million just as Bush was launching his candidacy.Now, the super PAC will go down in history as yet another failed Murphy juggernaut.In the armchair quarterbacking following Bush’s departure from the race Saturday night, Murphy is facing countless questions about the efficacy of the PAC spending tens of millions of dollars on a candidacy that floundered months ago and never rebounded.Murphy said in an email Monday, “Out of more than 11,000 donors only a handful have complained.”“This is just axe grinding, mostly from rival consultant types,” Murphy said.
Right to Rise was rumored to have been involved with the Republican funding of the anti-Trump dossier during the 2016 election primaries. According to The Daily Caller’s Doug Ross, “a BBC reporter who had been in contact with Fusion GPS prior to the election” reported in January 2017 that a Jeb Bush donor was Fusion’s first client.
But the reporter corrected the article, saying only that the “opposition research firm that commissioned the report had worked first for an anti-Trump superpac” after Murphy contacted the BBC.
APIC released a statement to Reuters saying they have voluntarily agreed to the settlement with the FEC.
“The Commission expressly acknowledged that the company did not knowingly or willfully violate any U.S. campaign finance laws,” APIC said. “American Pacific International Capital remains committed to compliance with all campaign finance laws and regulations.”
“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 Campaign Legal Center President Trevor Potter.