Strike Three: Feds Catch Bernie with $10 Million in Mystery Campaign Donations

Strike Three: Feds Catch Bernie with $10 Million in Mystery Campaign Donations

No, you can't see my books!

No, you can't see my books!

This is becoming a monthly event.

For the third time this year, the Federal Election Commission has served notice to the campaign of Sen. Sanders for making a mess of their [campaign] financial house. In the last two notices, the FEC noted over-limit and potentially illegal foreign contributions to the campaign, both with warnings of an audit.

But those egregious violation seem like typographical errors compared to the newest FEC notice to the Sanders campaign. The regulators have spotted more than $10 million that snuck into Sanders' campaign coffers from with no apparent accounting as to what it came from. Ten. Million. Dollars.

FEC's notice addresses Sanders' July 2015 campaign report, in which the campaign accounted for $3 million in individual, itemized contributions, but his full filing shows total itemized contributions of well over $13 million.

Line 17(a)(i) of the Detailed Summary Page of your report discloses a total of $3,279,505.25 in contributions from individuals. The sum of the entries itemized on Schedule A-P, however, indicates the total to be $13,745,417.64. These amounts should be the same. Please amend your report to clarify the discrepancy. (11 CFR § 104.3(a) and (b))

The $10,465,912.39  gap seems to have come from this part of the report, which the Sanders campaign put under the donor name of "Unitemized total" while listing it under "Schedule A-P: Itemized receipts." For the Bernie fans who are about to shout, no, this is NOT the ActBlue line. This follows that line.

From Bernie 2016 campaign filing, of July quarterly, 2015. See Filings here.

The Sanders campaign has never explained this $10 million, and evidently, has yet to file an amendment to their report listing it under "itemized" receipts with no explanation of where it came form.

One may wish to believe this is simply bad accounting and the Sanders campaign has just listed the amount in the wrong place on the report. But the fact that it is listed under the part of the report designated to account for itemized donations - i.e. donors who are giving more than $200 in the aggregate - raises some important questions.

First, whether the $10 million is in fact the sum of individual contributions aggregating under $200. I mean, is it really that difficult to decipher that one is not supposed to list a line of things that are not supposed to be itemized in the itemized section of the report? One assumes that Bernie's treasurer and accountants all possess at least fourth grade level reading comprehension skills, and assuming that, it's fairly difficult to swallow that they simply could not read this properly.

Which leads us to the core of the problem: if by unitemized receipts the Sanders campaign means receipts that have not been itemized (but should be under the law) rather than contributions that legally do not need to be itemized, the campaign is concealing information the public have a right to know. What, precisely is hiding behind that smokescreen? Is it money from, gasp, those dreaded Super PACs? Is it money Bernie saved by selling half his hair? Is it more illegal foreign money?  Is it likeness royalties paid to Bernie Sanders by makers of all grumpy cat images ever? Is it bundled NRA contributions? Is it a transfer from his personal - I mean his wife's personal - wealth?

Or is it that awesome sauce from some of his highest profile celebrity supporters who also donate to Tea Party Republicans? (H/T Liberal Librarian)

We just don't know. For a candidate who is the supposed champion of transparency and campaign finance reform, there seems to be a whole heck of a lot we just don't know about Bernie Sanders' campaign finances, at the very least, $10.5 million worth of it.

Out of sheer abundance of information, this amount is more than double the total amount the Sanders campaign is accusing Hillary Clinton and super PACs she has no control over of having taken from the "fossil fuel industry." This is more than two-thirds the $15 million Bernie Sanders is accusing the same entities (mostly ones without Clinton's input or control) of having taken from the big bad banks. And this is almost 50 times what Hillary Clinton allegedly raked in for her supposedly nefarious speech at Goldman Sachs.

Interestingly though, Bernie Sanders and his fans want an explanation for all of those while they continue to stonewall opening up their own campaign records (or Bernie's tax returns, for that matter, but that's another post). At what point does a campaigns' say so and "trust me" gets so perilously close to "I'm not a crook" that there's no difference?



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