By Ginger Gibson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The federal election oversight agency has levied a record fine against the Super PAC that backed former presidential hopeful Jeb Bush, who ran as a Republican in 2016, and a Chinese-owned corporation, according to a watchdog group that filed the initial complaint.
The Campaign Legal Center had asked the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to impose sanctions in 2016, after The Intercept reported that American Pacific International Capital, Inc (APIC) had made $1.3 million (£988,664) in contribution to the Right to Rise PAC.
APIC released a statement saying they are a U.S company and voluntarily agreed to the settlement with the FEC.
"The Commission expressly acknowledged that the company did not knowingly or wilfully violate any U.S. campaign finance laws," APIC said in a statement provided to Reuters. "American Pacific International Capital remains committed to compliance with all campaign finance laws and regulations."
The Campaign Legal Center, however, called it a victory for transparency.
“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.
The FEC alleges that two Chinese citizens, Gordon Tang and Huaidan Chen, who are prohibited from making campaign donations, funnelled their contributions through APIC to avoid detection.
APIC was fined $550,000 for making the contributions and Right to Rise was fined $390,000 for soliciting a foreign national contribution.
Federal law prohibits foreign nationals or foreign companies from contributing to U.S. political campaigns or candidates.
The documents released by the Campaign Legal Center do not implicate Bush, who spent months before formally launching his campaign fundraising for the Right to Rise PAC.
Right to Rise spent millions trying to help elect Bush president. He ultimately lost the Republican nominating contest to Donald Trump.
The PAC was dissolved after Bush was defeated. A representative could not be contacted for comment.
(Reporting by Ginger Gibson; editing by Jonathan Oatis)