Bernie Sanders Campaign Issues Refunds To Hundreds Of Donors Who May Not Be US Citizens

The Sanders campaign has issued refunds to 278 donors whose US citizenship was not able to be confirmed after they donated to the campaign.

According to Sanders campaign’s FEC filing, “The Committee did not receive confirmation of citizenship or residence status and therefore issued refunds earlier this month to the following donors. These refunds will be reflected in the Committee?s forthcoming 2016 May Monthly FEC Report (04/01/2016 ? 04/30/2016).”

The good news is that the fact that the potentially illegal donations were caught means that the system worked. Potentially illegal foreign donations were not accepted by the Sanders campaign. The bad news is that the system could be better, and there is still potential for a candidate to accept illegal foreign donations.

Bernie Sanders has proven the conventional wisdom wrong by showing that a candidate doesn’t need super PACs and dark money to run a competitive presidential campaign. The problem is that even a campaign with good intentions can still see potentially illegal donations slip through the cracks. The Sanders campaign caught 278 questionable donations out of the millions that they receive each month, but how many did they not catch?

The best way to reform our campaign finance system is to get rid of private donations altogether and move to a publicly funded campaign finance system. No one is suggesting that the Sanders campaign did anything wrong, but even a system of financing that relies on small individual donors is not perfect. The small online donation fundraising system has its own potential vulnerabilities.

What Sanders is doing is light years better than the post-Citizens United dark money environment, but the best solution remains public funding for all elections.