Will the DOJ Go After the Beto Campaign for Diverting Campaign Funds to the Caravan?

By Rachel Alexander Published on November 5, 2018

Last week, Project Veritas caught staffers on the campaign of Beto O’Rourke admitting wrongdoing. O’Rourke is running against Ted Cruz for Senate. The staffers said on undercover video that the campaign spent money on supplies for the caravan.

The campaign broke the law. Will the DOJ prosecute? Probably not. Why? It’s a Democratic campaign.

Fines v. Prosecution

The Bill Moyers site explains why some election violations receive fines, but others are criminally prosecuted. “While most of campaign finance laws are enforced administratively (when they are bothered to be enforced) by the FEC with civil fines, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has concurrent criminal jurisdiction over willful violations of the campaign finance laws.”

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In other words, if the DOJ wants to jump in and prosecute an election violation, it can. Or the DOJ can just leave it to the FEC to handle civilly. This is very arbitrary.

The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 states that campaign finance violations done knowingly and intentionally, “aggregating $25,000 or more are five-year felonies, and those that involve illegal conduit contributions and aggregate over $10,000 are two-year felonies.” Prosecutors get to decide whether the violations were done knowingly and intentionally. If they decide they weren’t, the offense is handled civilly. This can be a very arbitrary decision.

Such as what if there’s no evidence, no admission, that someone knowingly and intentionally committed a campaign finance violation? If prosecutors want to get someone without any evidence, they just presume that the person acted knowingly and intentionally. This allows them to try the infraction as a crime.

Staffers Admitted Intent

Staffers on the Beto campaign fully admitted on hidden camera that they knew they were violating the law. A lawyer for Project Veritas says the actions violate the FEC’s rules against personal use and reporting. It also violates Section 1001, making a false statement to the government.

If found to have violated the FEC rules, the agency could fine them up to $10,000 or 200 percent of the funds involved. If found to have violated Section 1001, it is a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.

Plenty of Democrats who committed similar campaign finance violations were merely fined. President Obama’s 2008 campaign committed three violations involving large sums of money. They failed to disclose millions of dollars in donations and delayed refunding those over the legal limit. The campaign also falsely dated filings dealing with $85 million in funds. The FEC merely fined the campaign $350,000.

GOP Targeted

The list of Republicans targeted by the DOJ (or similar prosecutors) continues to grow. One of the first big targets was the late Sen. Ted Stevens. Others include former Rep. Rick Renzi, former Rep. Tom DeLay, former Gov. Bob McDonnell, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Utah AG John Swallow. The most recent victim is former Rep. Steve Stockman. A judge will sentence him within the next few days. He may spend the rest of his life in prison.

AG Jeff Sessions has turned out to be a disappointment. He is unwilling to rock the boat. So the DOJ prosecutors continue to run rampant targeting those on the right. Sadly, very few people stand up for those targeted. They are afraid of becoming targets themselves. Lawyers advise those prosecuted not to go public with their side of the story or face retaliation.

After I wrote about Stockman, and published a defense of him on my website, the prosecution used it against him in the sentencing memo. They said Stockman showed no remorse. They said he made “baseless accusations of bias.” Stockman didn’t even write the article. A witness for the prosecution who changed his mind after the trial wrote it. He decided Stockman was innocent.

The DOJ is currently prosecuting Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) for the same thing the Beto campaign did: diverting campaign funds for another purpose. I will be shocked if the DOJ actually gives the Beto campaign the same criminal treatment.

 

Follow Rachel on Twitter at Rach_IC. Send tips to rachel.alexander@stream.org.

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