U.S. election commission fines Jeb Bush Super PAC, Chinese company

WASHINGTON, March 11 (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 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 willfully 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.

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GREENVILLE, SC - SEPTEMBER 18: Former Florida Governor and republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks to voters at the Heritage Action Presidential Candidate Forum September 18, 2015 in Greenville, South Carolina. Eleven republican candidates each had twenty five minutes to talk to voters Friday at the Bons Secours Wellness arena in the upstate of South Carolina. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - JUNE 15: Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush waves on stage as he announces his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination during an event at Miami-Dade College - Kendall Campus on June 15 , 2015 in Miami, Florida. Bush joins a list of Republican candidates to announce their plans on running against the Democrats for the White House. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 01: Republican presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks during a town hall style meeting at La Progresiva Presbyterian School on September 1, 2015 in Miami, Florida. Jeb continues to campaign for the Republican nomination. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - AUGUST 14: Republican presidential hopeful and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (C) talks with members of the media as U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (L) (R-IA) and U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R) (R-IA) look on during the Iowa State Fair on August 14, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. Presidential candidates are addressing attendees at the Iowa State Fair on the Des Moines Register Presidential Soapbox stage. The State Fair runs through August 23. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - AUGUST 14: Republican presidential hopeful and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad eat a pork chop on a stick at the Iowa Pork Tent during the Iowa State Fair on August 14, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. Presidential candidates are addressing attendees at the Iowa State Fair on the Des Moines Register Presidential Soapbox stage. The State Fair runs through August 23. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
AMHERST, NH - JULY 4: Republican Presidential candidate Jeb Bush greets supporters at the 4th of July Parade on July 4, 2015 in Amherst, New Hampshire. Bush is a front-runner in the polls for the 2016 presidential race with 14 other republican candidates. (Photo by Kayana Szymczak/Getty Images)
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The FEC alleges that two Chinese citizens, Gordon Tang and Huaidan Chen, who are prohibited from making campaign donations, funneled 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)

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