1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

Jeb Bush Super PAC fined for taking $1.3 million in illegal money

Right to Rise USA, created to propel the former Florida governor into the Oval Office, was slapped with a $390,000 penalty on March 4.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. (Associated Press)
Published Mar. 12

A Super PAC that spent more than $100 million in support of Jeb Bush’s failed 2016 presidential campaign has been hit with a massive fine by the Federal Elections Commission for soliciting more than $1 million in political contributions from Chinese nationals.

Right to Rise USA, created to propel the former Florida governor into the Oval Office, was slapped with a $390,000 penalty on March 4 following a lengthy investigation into money donated by a California company called American Pacific International Capital and solicited by Bush’s younger brother, Neil. The company, wholly owned by a corporation based out of China, was fined $550,000 in December in relation to the same case.

The fines, revealed in conciliation agreements that have not yet been made public by the federal government, were detailed in documents released Monday by the non-profit Campaign Legal Center. Following a report by The Intercept, the non-partisan organization filed a complaint in 2016 accusing the company of improperly acting as a pass-through to allow a Chinese couple to steer $1.3 million to the Super PAC.

“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,” Trevor Potter, president of CLC and a former Republican Chairman of the FEC, said in a statement.

The details of the agreements suggest that APIC and Neil Bush, a company board member who initially suggested the donation, would have been fine had the contribution been handled entirely by Bush and the company’s executive director, who is also an American citizen. Emails show Neil Bush encouraged APIC to consult its attorneys and received legal guidance from Right to Rise on donations by domestic subsidiaries of foreign corporations.

But the younger Bush — whom the FEC says became an agent of the Super PAC when it provided him with the legal memorandum to guide the donation — erred when he consulted APIC Board Chairman Gordon Tang and board member Huaidan Chen, both Chinese nationals. That broke a federal campaign rule intended to ensure that “foreign nationals shall not direct, dictate, control or directly or indirectly participate” in the decision-making process when it comes to corporations’ election activities.

“Neil Bush solicited Gordon Tang and Huaidan Chen to make a contribution to Right to Rise USA,” states the agreement with Right to Rise. “Further, Bush was aware that Gordon Tang and Huaidan Chen participated in making the decision that APIC would contribute to Right to Rise USA.”

APIC spokesman Mark Irion stressed in a statement that the company is a U.S. company, and that the elections commission “expressly acknowledged that the company did not knowingly or willfully violate any U.S. campaign finance laws.” Charlie Spies, general counsel to Right to Rise, said the Super PAC settled the issue “to avoid costly litigation and appreciates the Commission’s recognition of the PAC’s extensive compliance efforts.”

A spokeswoman for Jeb Bush referred the Miami Herald to Spies.

According to Mother Jones, which first reported the fines, Neil Bush said through a spokesman Monday that the money he raised was contributed by American entities and citizens who were allowed under law to give to Right to Rise.

“I believed that my actions were both lawful and consistent with the legal advice that I sought.”


  1. State Rep. Chris Sprowls, 35, addresses the Florida House of Representatives, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla., after the Republican was elected to lead the 120-member chamber. (AP Photo/Bobby Caina Calvan) BOBBY CAINA CALVAN  |  AP
    The Pinellas Republican did not shy away from the wedge issues of the day, wading into 2020 presidential politics, abortion and climate change.
  2. The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County identified a positive case of hepatitis A in a food service worker at Hamburger Mary's in Ybor City on Oct. 22, 2018. [JOSH FIALLO | Times] JOSH FIALLO | TIMES  |  JOSH FIALLO | Times
    Slightly more than 200,000 people have been vaccinated this year — a huge jump from the 49,324 people vaccinated in all of 2018.
  3. This satellite image shows Hurricane Michael on Oct. 9, 2018, as it enters the Gulf of Mexico. It made landfall near Mexico Beach in the Panhandle as a Category 5 storm. [Photo courtesy of NOAA] NOAA
    Nearly a year after the storm, 18,000 claims are still open.
  4. The Florida House Education Committee focuses on early education in its first meeting of the 2020 session. The Florida Channel
    Gov. Ron DeSantis also had set a priority of getting more youngsters ready for kindergarten.
  5. Energy-efficient LED light bulbs. (Times | 2008) St. Petersburg Times
    Trump’s administration recently scrapped a rule that would have phased out incandescent light bulbs.
  6. President Donald Trump speaks at the 2019 House Republican Conference Member Retreat Dinner in Baltimore on Sept. 12. JOSE LUIS MAGANA  |  AP
    The country is moving in that direction, though.
  7. She’s the fifth candidate to announce her campaign for the GOP primary.
  8. Rep. Chris Sprowls, R- Palm Harbor.  [SCOTT KEELER  |   Times] SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    At 2 p.m. today, the Republicans of the Florida House are scheduled to elect the Palm Harbor state representative to serve as speaker for the 2021 - 2022 term.
  9. Students and community activists marched in Tampa last year after the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The attack killed 17 people and gave rise to Florida’s school guardian law, which this year was changed to allow classroom teachers to be armed. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the measure into law. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
    "This is the dumb, backwards stuff that we do here,” one Florida lawmaker said.
  10. Florida Senator Tom Lee, R- Thonotosassa. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times] SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES
    Tom Lee chairs the Florida Senate’s Infrastructure and Security Committee, which has been tasked by the Senate president with coming up with a response to the most recent spate of mass shootings.