Young Australians say they are being paid to work for Sen. Bernard Sanders’ campaign by the Australian Labor Party in what appears to be a violation of U.S. election law, according to an undercover video released Thursday.
The footage captured by Project Veritas Action shows three campaign volunteers discussing how they received compensation from the Australian Labor Party — including airfare, housing and a daily stipend — in order to help Mr. Sanders’ bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
“They [the Australian Labor Party] pay for our flights. They pay for the cost of accommodations, which is just the staff house, and then we also get a $60 stipend a day,” said Rebecca Doyle, an Australian campaign volunteer in New Hampshire, in the hidden-camera footage.
Under federal law, foreign nationals are permitted to work on U.S. campaigns as volunteers, but cannot be compensated.
In addition, federal law bans foreign contributions to campaigns, describing it as unlawful for “a foreign national, directly or indirectly, to make … a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State or local election.”
The disclosure comes shortly after the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office launched an investigation into allegations of voter fraud after a Project Veritas Action video showed Sanders staffers admitting that they registered to vote in New Hampshire, even though they lived elsewhere.
The Sanders campaign did not return immediately a request for comment Thursday, but Sanders officials interviewed in the video appeared to be unaware of the Australian Labor Party’s involvement.
Asked who paid for the Australians’ airfare, Sanders campaign national director Rich Pelletier told Project Veritas Action president James O’Keefe in an interview, “You know, I honestly don’t know.”
He said there were five such volunteers in Nevada, but that he didn’t think they were part of a program. “No, they just wanted to come out. So they just came out,” Mr. Pelletier said.
That’s not how the three college-age Australians shown in the video described it.
“So basically our political party, the Labor Party, has an international branch, called Labor International,” said Ms. Doyle. “It’s like a branch of the Australian Labor Party that runs international programs and one of the programs was this.”
Sandeep Sarath, an Australian volunteer for the Sanders campaign in Nevada, said it was “like an exchange program. So it — the equivalent of the Democrats in Australia is called the Labor Party, and they’ve sent us over.”
Why did he choose Mr. Sanders’ campaign? “We didn’t actually, so the party chose,” Mr. Sarath says in the undercover footage.
Ben Kremer, an Australian volunteer in New Hampshire, said they had been warned not to post photos on social media or otherwise draw attention to themselves in order to avoid an outcry over the use of Australian taxpayer dollars for U.S. campaigns.
“So they have had issues in the past, where — like if I put up a photo of myself in front of the Statue of Liberty and like the next morning it will be on the front page of a newspaper, they’d be like, ‘21-year-old student uses taxpayers’ money to go on holiday.’ Like, ‘What a disgrace,’” Mr. Kremer said.
He said there were Australians working for the Sanders campaign in Nevada, Iowa and South Carolina, as well as New Hampshire.
“I couldn’t afford to be here if they didn’t pay for it,” Mr. Kremer said.
Mr. Sarath said there were four Australians affiliated with the Labor Party program working in Mr. Sanders’ Nevada office.
“Out of the four of us, three of us are full-time employees,” Mr. Sarath said. “I’m not. I’m actually a volunteer. But I’ve done a lot of them.”
Ms. Doyle said the Sanders campaign staffer who picked them up at the airport was surprised to see them.
“There wasn’t much coordination,” she said, referring to the Australian Labor Party and the Sanders campaign.
“We got picked up from the airport in Manchester by Thorpe, the director of operations, and he was like, ‘So, what are you guys doing here?’” she said. “And we were like, ‘We thought you knew what we were doing here.’”
The Project Veritas project appeared to start as a sting operation aimed at catching Sanders staffers removing the yard signs of other campaigns, but Mr. O’Keefe said the focus changed after undercover investigators encountered a number of Australian nationals.
“We kept meeting up with these young Australians in the Bernie Sanders campaign,” Mr. O’Keefe said in the video. “When we heard why and how they came to be in the U.S. we were really curious.”