Claire Hazelgrove, a third year politics student and Labour parliamentary candidate, has been accused of attempting to illegally raise funds for US presidential candidate Barack Obama.
Her attempt to raise money through a drinks reception was discovered by conservative blogger Donal Blaney, who said it was a “flagrant breach of US election law”.
Hazelgrove, who worked for the Obama campaign this summer, organised a party on October 23 with Raf Sanchez, editor of Nouse, at Pitcher and Piano in York. The Facebook page for the event stated: “American law says that foreign nationals can’t donate to political campaigns… But what we can do is have a party, pay £3 each and give the money to Raf, who is an American citizen… Raf can then donate the exact amount made at the party to the Obama campaign.”
Under the American Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), it is against the law for any “foreign national to contribute, donate or spend funds in connection with any federal, state, or local election in the United States.”
On October 15, Blaney posted a link to the Facebook event on his blog. He accused Hazelgrove of “co-hosting an event that is designed to raise funds for Barack Obama in a way that seeks to circumvent US electoral law.” Hazelgrove then edited the Facebook event, reclassifying it as an ‘Obama supporter’s party (not fundraiser)’.
Blaney’s blog on October 16 suggested Hazelgrove and Sanchez would be prosecuted by the Federal Election Campaign.
In a joint statement Hazelgrove and Sanchez said: “As far as we know it is not a crime to have a bad idea and then not act on it in either this country or the United States. No money was exchanged and none will be. Nor did we solicit, it was just an idea we decided against.”
Hazelgrove remains a parliamentary candidate. At the time of going to print, Sanchez is understood to be preparing to resign from his editorial post.